"YOU WILL FIND HAPPINESS."
I jolted awake.
My eyes were painted with the sight of dancing snow.
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.
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.
Time stood still. I have no recollection.
The snow tickled my nose. They were the only things that ironically comforted me as I gazed around the desolate and creepy cottage.
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.
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.
Ah, that's right.
I remember now.
I think it was some city...
Or was it a place I hated for some reason?
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.
But what about the city did I not like?
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.
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.
How old am I?
Crap, I don't even remember this.
In fact, what's my name?
Now I'm scared. I should be.
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.
I know I'm seeing things, but I don't know why this is happening.
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.
But like the strange trail, the sight in front of me only added to the list of peculiar experiences.
For my eyes witnessed the gradual fade of falling snow and the welcome warmth of the sun.
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.
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.
This must be the city I'd renounced.
Everything looks fine.
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.
This time, an intimidating voice of a man.
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.
Well, I said greeters because they can't seem to get rid of their uncanny smiles.
"WELCOME HOME, #21, WE HAVE MISSED YOU."
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.
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.
"YOU MAY CALL ME LROP," the girl returned the man's nod after she finished her inspection of me.
"YOU MAY CALL ME KIP," his voice boomed louder than the girl's, his fingers casually scratching his neck.
I stepped back, but the sudden jolt of the girl's head staring back at me with that unnerving smile solidified my last movement.
"WELCOME IN #21. NOW THAT YOU'VE EMBRACED YOUR NEW SENSE OF SELF, I ASSURE YOU, WE ARE BEAUTIFUL."