Chapter 5:



The sound of static roars as the bearings of my consciousness waver, and I once again shift to another plane. I'm thrown onto a cold ground, covered in dirt and bound by rope. All I hear is the rumbling of an engine, and the sound of tires trampling gravel.Bookmark here

The ropes tighten around my wrists, pulling me across the dirt. My clothes are torn by rocks as the rope’s momentum increases, and I finally raise my head to see an old pick-up truck on the other end of the rope.Bookmark here

I can only see a shadow of the person driving, and there's not any light or other indication of life around. I’m just being dragged across a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.Bookmark here

Recalling JC’s words of encouragement, I curse him as I lift off my elbows and reach in my chest pocket where my phone was. Instead, the truck accelerates, and I’m slung into the dirt. The rocks pound my body and face, grinding my skin relentlessly as I shriek. If this is what he meant by the place my dreams reside, it’s hopeless. I’m only going to suffer more, and she isn’t even here.Bookmark here

Instinct allows me to roll to my back, redirecting the pain, but it’s all I have left in me. I can only sob silently as I’m dragged down this endless dirt path. I stare into the vast night sky, wishing upon the massive stars that I might become one of them. I know it’s a hapless thought, unwise to my fate, but I have nothing left— a familiar feeling.Bookmark here

I notice my blouse has been replaced by tattered clothes that wear away more with each inch I’m dragged. I can’t see my arms, but my thin legs wear blood and bruise enough to match their pain. A survey of my slender body reveals fresh stab wounds seeping blood. An intense nausea assaults me, and my vision blurs, as if a switch had been flipped.Bookmark here

The only sounds are that of my body smearing dirt and rock, and the perpetual humming of the truck’s motor. The dull motor fills my ears, and its vibrations become my only avenue of sensation. I hum along, hoping that through the effort I might become a vibration myself.Bookmark here

Somewhere between the stars and the vibrations I lose myself. All I see is the stars and all I feel are the vibrations. Is it okay if I fade away like this? If I can’t die to end my suffering, can I at least become a figment of the process, a phantom of the concept, rather than the one suffering?Bookmark here

My blurred eyes discover something in the distance that interrupts my musings . A glowing, ghost-like figure chases after the truck, reaching out as if to try and grab a hold of me. The large, burly figure bears no human resemblance other than shape, yet feels like home. “You won’t reach me,” I mutter in a childlike voice, gazing at the stars as I attempt to project my consciousness onto them.Bookmark here

“M---y? A feminine voice sneaks into my ears from beyond the vibrations. “Mary!” the desperate voice screams, pushing the vibrations aside. Did she manage to break through them? Rather, I don’t know who she is, but she’s further interrupted my descent into nothingness.Bookmark here

I recall my body and tilt my head back, looking upside-down at the truck. On the dashboard, next to the shadow of the driver, a small square screen displays a white light. “Mary! Can you hear me? Please, try to answer!”Bookmark here

That’s right; it’s Mirei. The one who said we should help each other if it gets scary. I've never met anyone like her. She might be the one reason why I should fight through this pain. If I let myself break here, I won’t be able to see her earnest smile again. She's the light at the end of the tunnel representing the freedom I’ve always hungered for. I know, now, that I must never let myself lose that freedom again.Bookmark here

I fight through gnashed teeth against the weakness in my legs and lift myself up. Turning my body, I push off my elbows and crawl to my knees. “I’m coming… Mirei.”Bookmark here

The truck speeds up, punching my momentum. I shout at my legs, urging them to keep up with its pace. My cries succeed as I bring myself to my feet, and with fumbling steps, I stride after the truck. Increasing my speed despite the pain coursing through my legs, I begin reeling in the rope while I shorten the distance. The truck accelerates, but my adrenaline peaks as I focus on the phone’s display.Bookmark here

Having cut the distance in half, my legs finally give way and crumple beneath me, to be torn into by the ground once more. “Mary! Is that you? Can you hear my voice?”Bookmark here

I hold myself up with the rigid rope, baring through the excruciating pain with blood and tears pouring from my face. Focusing on my arms and torso, I pull myself along with the rope, fighting the dizziness assaulting me.Bookmark here

“This isn’t my reality,” I cry. “I won’t allow my freedom to be stolen anymore!” With every ounce of strength I have, I haul myself into the bed of the truck using just my arms. My useless legs flail as I roll my body toward the back window of the truck and smash my elbow through it.Bookmark here

Glass rains into the two-seater, and the driver dissipates into a whirl of shadow out the window. I pull myself through the shattered frame, and lunge for the phone on the dashboard while my torso stretches over the jagged remnants of glass. “Mirei!” I scream over my sobs.Bookmark here

“Mary, you’re there!” she cries. Her angelic voice infiltrates my soul and fills me up, replacing the pain.Bookmark here

“Mary, are you okay? Can you talk?”Bookmark here

“I’m fine now,” I answer in a soft cry. “Are you okay?”Bookmark here

“I’m fine!” she shouts. “You’re the one that’s in danger!”Bookmark here

“Huh?” I mutter, forgetting my situation.Bookmark here

“Listen, Mary! We only have until the phone call reaches five minutes to talk, okay?” I look at the display of our phone call— 4:42.Bookmark here

“What happens after that?” I ask, the catharsis I gained from her voice turning into lethargy.Bookmark here

"JC’s theory is that we can only talk here, in five-minute increments. We’ll return to the dreamscape, where we can't reach each other. We can only help each other here! You have to reach the phone quickly next time, okay?”Bookmark here

The display turns from 4:58 to 4:59 while I enjoy the sound of her voice, and at 5:00 it's overcome by static noise.Bookmark here

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