Chapter 1:

AM I FINE?

TOTALLY FINE.


"YOU WILL FIND HAPPINESS."Bookmark here

I jolted awake.Bookmark here

My eyes were painted with the sight of dancing snow.Bookmark here

As if faith decided to confuse me further, I found myself laying on the cold, decaying floor with my arms parallel against my fragile body. Bookmark here

For a moment, I thought I heard a voice. But after getting myself up from a sore rest, it was nothing but a red herring. Bookmark here

Time stood still. I have no recollection. Bookmark here

The snow tickled my nose. They were the only things that ironically comforted me as I gazed around the desolate and creepy cottage.Bookmark here

Except, I realized the roof was in shambles. Pieces of wood swung against the chilling winds as they howled violently, beckoning for me to exit. Bookmark here

I was wearing a jacket, but it was one where the unforgiving winter penetrated through its layers and sent shivers down my spine. My pleas to know as to why the heck I was stuck inside some random cottage were answered when a seemingly convenient trail was spotted at a distance.Bookmark here

Ah, that's right.Bookmark here

I remember now.Bookmark here

I think it was some city...Bookmark here

Or was it a place I hated for some reason?Bookmark here

It was in the dead of winter, I think, when I ran the distance between a cottage and the city I'd renounced long ago.Bookmark here

But what about the city did I not like?Bookmark here

Memories love to come and go. They toy with your emotions and play dead during a revival period. I could beg all day, but the mysterious trail seemed to be my only option.Bookmark here

I sighed, wiping off the remaining snow that started piling amongst themselves on my coat. With a few delicate steps, I gained the confidence of a nobody in this strange world. With no one to witness, I giggled to myself and started hopping on top of the snow-covered tiles. A silly child I was, even though I'm an adult.Bookmark here

Wait.Bookmark here

How old am I?Bookmark here

Crap, I don't even remember this.Bookmark here

In fact, what's my name?Bookmark here

Now I'm scared. I should be.Bookmark here

My legs gave into my anxiety and started to run. The chilling air that slapped my cheeks had me puffing for proper breathing while my vision danced with hallucinations of strangers guffawing. Smiling. Gossiping.Bookmark here

I know I'm seeing things, but I don't know why this is happening.Bookmark here

Before my thoughts derailed any further, the choppiness of my sprint suddenly came to an end. There was nothing but endless snow across the horizon earlier as if I was stuck in some dream consuming me into a cycle of neverending winter. Bookmark here

But like the strange trail, the sight in front of me only added to the list of peculiar experiences.Bookmark here

For my eyes witnessed the gradual fade of falling snow and the welcome warmth of the sun.Bookmark here

Sure, there was melting heaps of rotten snow on the ground, but the drastic change in weather and the scenery of what looked to be the most beautiful city overwhelmed my vision.Bookmark here

Rows of houses neatly placed with such order; buildings showing no signs of disarray emphasized their diversity in heights and sizes were all located in the center of the city. A large playground, filled with the smiles and innocent laughter of children. And at another part of the town lies what I believed was a school, where students were all having grilled cheese sandwiches. Bookmark here

This must be the city I'd renounced. Bookmark here

But why? Bookmark here

Everything looks fine.Bookmark here

"SALUTATIONS."Bookmark here

A squeaky voice pierced through my ears and scattered my thoughts. I jumped before my head turned to glance in the direction of where the voice emitted.Bookmark here

"SALUTATIONS."Bookmark here

This time, an intimidating voice of a man.Bookmark here

I froze. Bookmark here

At the distance where it looked to be the end of the trail and the entrance to this alluring city, stood two individuals who dressed like Santa's greeters.Bookmark here

Well, I said greeters because they can't seem to get rid of their uncanny smiles.Bookmark here

"WELCOME HOME, #21, WE HAVE MISSED YOU."Bookmark here

The girl, with her presence carrying sounds of a requiem, approached me with an even wider smile. Those gnarly teeth. And rotten, and uneven. Purely disgusting to look at but my eyes were fixated. Bookmark here

As if her unnatural gestures and hand dangling weren't intriguing enough, the man who stood next to her at the entrance started nodding his head like an excited dog ready for its meal. He grinned, and I swore I heard church bells tolling.Bookmark here

"YOU MAY CALL ME LROP," the girl returned the man's nod after she finished her inspection of me. Bookmark here

"YOU MAY CALL ME KIP," his voice boomed louder than the girl's, his fingers casually scratching his neck.Bookmark here

I stepped back, but the sudden jolt of the girl's head staring back at me with that unnerving smile solidified my last movement. Bookmark here

"WELCOME IN #21. NOW THAT YOU'VE EMBRACED YOUR NEW SENSE OF SELF, I ASSURE YOU, WE ARE BEAUTIFUL."Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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