Chapter 20

The sensation is vaguely familiar. I feel the prickling coldness that I felt the last time I was aware of my dream, but this time, it doesn't wake me up. Instead, every time the wave of cool washes over me, it pulls me deeper and deeper into unconsciousness, almost to the point where I cannot tell if I'm dreaming or not.

But of course you're dreaming, I rationalize, because there's no way you're actually outside the facility right now.

Shriveled brown and black pricks of hay or twigs or something sway stiffly in the wind, leaning towards me and scratching my legs. They feel like the pinpricks of the needles that slide into my arm.

In the sky is a pulsing black orb that casts gray light all over the terrain, making the expanse of grainy hay appear shadowed. In the distance I see something that resembles a wide clump of trees, but all the leaves have fallen, or been burnt off, I realize as I come closer and see remnants of singed foliage scattered over the dirt ground. I bend down to pick up a leaf and it crumbles to ash in my hand. Water falls into my hand, darkening the ash and making it stick to my skin, and I realize that I'm crying. More water chills the back of my neck and weighs down my hair and I look up at the sky, now swirling black and blue like the bruises on my arms, and it begins to rain.

As a loud crash echoes through the sky and falls to the ground, I hear a shout from behind me and see people in black clothing and masks running after me. They hold weapons in their hands and their eyes are fire that turn to coal in the next second. I go to wipe the ash on my shirt and realize that I'm not wearing any clothing, and the ash coats my skin. As I begin to run it spreads all over my body, clothing me, but turns my body shadowed like the hay. I fly over felled trees and burnt off stumps, stumbling every so often on clear vines that seem to slither after me like snakes. Sometimes they wrap around my legs, but then get burnt on the ash and fall off and burrow into the dead ground.

I don't realize it as I'm running, but the rain begins to lessen. Soon my face is dry and my hair falls down my back like a veil, reaching halfway down my back. The sky fades from black to dark purple, from purple to blue, from blue to light blue, the color that I think a sky should look like, though I cannot remember ever seeing one before. The color is familiar and leaks from the sky to the trees. It paints them and myself and from the trees that are coated spring blue leaves and blue branches and blue vines that close behind me, creating a wall between me and my pursuers. It rains on me too and washes away the ashes and soon I am blue. I am the same color as the ground and the sky and soon there is no separation between us.

If I want to move forward, I must only think it and I do. If I want to run on the leaves of the tree they would bend down to meet me. The orb in the sky is still black, but it glitters and reflects the color of the ground.

Suddenly, I hear another clap of thunder and look behind me to see the masked ripping through the vines. As their weapons cut through, the vines fall and turn green. They don't shrivel or turn to snakes. They leave, disappear, and soon nothing remains behind me but the expanse of shadowed fields. The hay have turned into spears. I can't go back there.

The blue sky runs endlessly in front of me, and I smile as I follow it.

But I am mistaken. It is not endless. I rise to the tips of my toes as I reach the edge of the cliff; my arms flail for balance. Behind me the masked run after, but no longer do masks cover their features. Their fiery eyes have burned away the black masks and engulfed their faces. Scorched, red and angry they call out for me with the voice of the thunder. In front of me is a cavern of blue with no bottom in sight. Across the way is the other side of the cliff, but there is no bridge connecting the two sides. There is an ultimate endlessness keeping me from making it across.

For a moment I contemplate jumping. I could leap and ride the blue all the way across. Something inside pulls me, and I can see myself flying over. But reason tells me not to do this, for I will only fall down and nothing waits for me at the bottom. The sun above me tells me not to put faith in something I cannot see. But the thunder is coming closer. And I can't breathe.

A chill rushes up my spine.

The End

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