Chapter 1:

The Flowerbed


When I opened my eyes, everything around me was spinning, and my head felt like it had been hit by lightning—but the pain stopped almost as soon as it came. Bookmark here

I quickly sat up and blinked a few times. Bookmark here

I patted my body all over. Bookmark here

I wasn’t dead.Bookmark here

I clearly remember falling for what felt like forever down a dark tunnel or... cave? Or something like that, but it was definitely dark, and now I was in a place so bright my eyes could barely take it.Bookmark here

I took a good look around me and realized I was in a field of soft-colored flowers and bushes around two feet tall—all different types and different shapes and, like I said, I’m not any good at identifying plants, but I’m also not stupid. I know a single plant can’t grow more than one kind of flower, and these were all different from the next one on the same branch. It was super weird. Bookmark here

Another thing that was super weird was how I could feel the sun shining down on me, up there in the sky, with clouds and everything. Bookmark here

...Didn’t I just fall into a hole?Bookmark here

I lifted my head to look up on instinct, and when I did, my blood immediately ran cold. Bookmark here

Up there, right above me like a speck of mud over white cloth, I could see a stain on the sky. But it wasn’t a stain. I knew exactly what it was.Bookmark here

It had muddied corners and an uneven shape, and if I strained my eyes enough, I could see it clear as day: it was the hole I had dropped in from! Bookmark here

“Holy shit… you gotta be kidding me…!”Bookmark here

I couldn’t take my eyes off the sky—or was it a ceiling? No, it was way too realistic to be fake… but, was it!? Maybe I was inside a simulation of sorts!? A parallel world!? An RPG!? Wait a sec, don’t you have to get hit by a truck for that? And I’m pretty sure you have to die—Oh.Bookmark here

“...Did I die…?”Bookmark here

My heart suddenly started beating faster. I knew in my mind having a pulse was a sign that I was alive, but the fear pumping adrenaline through my body and making my heart race in turn were winning the death argument. There’s no way I fell from that high up and survived. Absolutely no way.Bookmark here

I quickly fumbled and scrambled backwards without peeling my eyes away from the hole, trying to make sense of this, and then I bumped into something soft behind me. Bookmark here

I gasped quietly, then turned my head around slowly to look at the object. I couldn’t help but feel a small sort of relief when I did.Bookmark here

“Alice…”Bookmark here

There she was, right next to me, curled up in a comfortable pose as if she were sleeping. She must have fallen down the hole along with me. Bookmark here

Her eyes and mouth were closed this time, and if it wasn’t for the blood and dirt all over her, I might have even thought she wasn’t dead at all.Bookmark here

I turned around to face her, and now that I could see her face under the sunlight, I felt something similar to guilt coursing through my body. I wasn’t scared anymore—instead, an intense sadness took over me in a second. Bookmark here

Perhaps it was because we were the only two people in this place and I couldn’t face the fact that I was alone, but at that moment, I wanted her alive. Bookmark here

I wanted her to be alive more than anything in the world.Bookmark here

“...Shiiit. What did I do?Bookmark here

I rubbed my temples with one hand, trying to keep myself as calm as possible.Bookmark here

“You were always such a bitch… you were so annoying and never listened to me… but can’t you listen just this once and come back!?Bookmark here

...Of course, Alice didn’t answer. That’s just like her.Bookmark here

“...Fine. Don’t say anything. I don’t care, anyway.”Bookmark here

I took a deep breath and staggered onto my feet. I took one more look at her corpse before looking around in every direction towards the horizon, but no matter where I faced, the flower field seemed endless. I sighed.Bookmark here

I guess finding out where I am and how to get out of here will come later. In the meantime, wasn’t this an even better place to bury her? For all I know, that’s the sole reason we both ended up here. To give her a proper resting place.Bookmark here

I kneeled back down next to her, and talked to her again as if she could listen. Bookmark here

“You’ll like it here, I think. It’s weird and colorful, just like you.”Bookmark here

She didn’t answer.Bookmark here

I slowly pushed on her shoulder to make her face up. If I was going to bury her, she had to be facing up, right? At least I thought so.Bookmark here

When I did that, something shiny sparkled from her chest, and it felt like when a mirror reflects light right into your eyes. Bookmark here

I moved my head back and away from it until I found an angle where I wouldn’t be assaulted by it, and saw that it came from a ruby-red pendant hanging from her neck. Bookmark here

I’ve never seen it before. It looked expensive.Bookmark here

I carefully took it off her neck so I could examine it better. Inside the bright red gemstone was a carving of a seven-pointed star with the letter “A” in the middle, and on the gold frame around it were small icons of card suits adorning it. It looked like a toy you would get from a vending machine, except the stone felt heavy and real.Bookmark here

“A… for Alice?”Bookmark here

I said to myself as I turned it around to look at the back. Bookmark here

Unfortunately, that was also as much of the pendant as I would get to examine at that moment.Bookmark here

“...Alice?” Bookmark here

A soft voice behind me suddenly said my sister’s name, and I was paralized. Bookmark here

It questioned me again nonetheless.Bookmark here

“Did you just say ‘Alice’?”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.