A voice still echoed in her mind.
"Systems Merge, Initialized." The voice had said, before everything went white.
As the cold, feminine echos ceased, Samantha's vision returned in full color.
Around her was absolute chaos. The brick and concrete buildings of the downtown area were cracked, crumbling, and many of them on fire. There was a car crashed into one of the blooming trees that lined the once pristine sidewalks, the driver still slumped in the seat. Its blaring car alarm was the first sound to break through her silent daze.
Then came the screaming and shouting, just as Samantha realized that people were running about frantically. They dodged burning cars, fallen trees, and other misshapen debris. Some of the people were covered in blood. Others lay on the ground, covered with signs of disaster and otherwise unmoving.
[What's happened? It looks like a bomb went off.]
Samantha squinted her eyes, protecting them against a thick smoke that had begun cloaking the scene. The stench of burning materials hurt her nose. Her senses were becoming so overwhelmed that it was hard to think straight. She closed her eyes to block everything out and focused on recalling her memories.
It was tabletop day, so she was walking to her friend's house... She remembered the weather being clear and the street seemed so peaceful. Then, suddenly, there was a blinding light and ear-splitting pop. She didn't even remember hitting the ground.
[Then I woke up like this… Wait. I wasn't alone!]
Her friends had been walking with her! Where were they?!
As she pushed herself to her elbows, Samantha realized something heavy was resting on her back. She turned her head towards the weight and saw a boy her age, with long black hair tied into a messy ponytail. One of his arms was folded in front of his face, indicating he had the time to guard his head before he was thrown to the ground. The other was covering her shoulders.
[His arm was over me… Mikale protected me.]
She was about to feel relieved when she remembered her other friend. Fortunately, it wasn't hard to find him. He lay conveniently to her right, looking relatively uninjured. He hadn't protected his face, but was lucky to have fallen into the grass that lined that sidewalk. His blond hair was littered with dirt and debris. Nothing dangerous.
Samantha quickly jumped to her knees and leaned over him. "Shoes… Shugo, wake up!"
Her voice was hoarse, held in her throat by fear. With a cough, Samantha realized fear wasn't the only thing muting her yells. The smoke was becoming thicker and felt uncomfortably hot. Something was obviously on fire, even if she couldn't make out what was burning.
Samantha lifted her focus from the two boys and back towards the streets, which were blanketed by the smoke. Through the smoke, she could still see other people were running around in a frenzy. Adults. Surely one of them could help a trio of teenagers, who were barely sixteen. She covered her mouth with her pink cardigan sleeves, to at least keep smoke out of her lungs, and prepared to yell for help. Her whole body was shaking with fear as she opened her mouth, but someone else called out first.
Samantha went stiff with shock.
No, she must have heard wrong. Something must be wrong with her head. Maybe she hit it too hard? And yet, a chorus of screams resounded through the panicking crowd:
"There's a dragon!"
She blinked her eyes now. That wasn't right. Dragons did not exist in the 21st century… Actually, they had never existed. They were fantasy and you could only find them through stretches of the imagination.
[I've clearly hit my head too hard… Or I'm dreaming. Having a nightmare. And when I wake up, Shoes and Mikky and I will go to play games with Usagi. Dragons are allowed to exist in tabletop games.]
And yet, like a flash of lightning, a body of red scales zipped through the street right in front of her. The huge form crashed into the side of a blue car. The colour of red hot fantasy and cool blue reality contrasted each other sharply. There was indeed a dragon. It was maybe half the size of a bus, with huge wings that extended over twice its body length. Huge talons dug into the car with the ease of a can opener. With the same effortless motion, the giant creature peeled the car's roof off.
Samantha heard the screaming before she saw the dragon remove a body from inside the vehicle. She didn't need to see anymore, nor did she want to, so ducked her head downward. The dying screams and cries explained what the dragon wanted from the people in the car.
Fear flooded her gut and threatened to paralyze her. The firey smoke was hot, but Samantha felt ice cold.
[This can't be happening! Dragons aren't real! And normal girls like me don't get caught up in this kind of thing…!]
Between the smoke and her fear, Samantha found it hard to breath. Just as her panic was becoming overwhelming, she heard one of the boys next to her moan. The sound of her friend's life snapped her back to her senses.
[Dream or not… I'm not letting this become a nightmare for us!]
Samantha grabbed Shugo first and rolled him over in the grass roughly. Then turned and did the same, with less cruelty, to Mikale. Both boys groaned softly in response, but weren't fully awake.