A never-ending nightmare…
A heavy sigh escaped his torrid trachea as he ran his digits along his dark hair. He gripped the gun in his right hand. He had to get away. He had to get away… or else he was done for. He had suddenly woken up in the middle of a forest. He didn’t know how he got here. Or why he was here.
The zephyr howled and blew a bitter chill past the dying trees, making them tremble and dragged them away unwillingly from the autumn ground. The floor was damp and stagnant with the odor of decomposing wood, the sky was a hazy grey and the thick clouds that rolled overhead looked down with vengeance. The forest seemed to never end; tall silhouettes shadowing the ground, centuries-old trees with writhing branches like tendrils of a monstrous creature. Clumpy combs of wet moss dangled from their rotten boughs. Underneath the moss, lethal larkspur peppered the mulchy floor. A pungent fragrance oozed from every vicinity within the forest. A presence lurked in the essence of the devils grasp, shadowing each living organism with dire precision.
This eerie atmosphere made him feel uneasy. The feeling of being watched and constant fear began to creep up upon him. The frigid winds danced along his lean figure, making the hairs along his arm bristle. He’s been walking for what seems like an eternity. This forest never seems to end, worrying him.
He abruptly stopped, a violent shiver ran through his spine and he bristled. His grip tightened around the gun. A subtle scent lingered in the air—a metallic scent laced with an earthen aroma. Blood, he realized. He sucked in air and slowly continued his walk, dead leaves crunched under his feet within each scent. Weaving along the lifeless trees, his visionaries widened what horror they laid eyes upon. A splatter of blood stained the forest ground, along with small chunks of meat. His eyes trailed on a rotting corpse that was sprawled out against the roots that withered amongst the stones, dirt, and the floor. Bile rose in his throat but he choked it down, refusing to hurl. The stench was unbearable. The corpse seemed to rot for a few days—maybe more. But something or someone was out here in this hellish excuse of a world.
Upon inspecting the corpse, a loud snap resonated through the forest, making him swivel around in alarm. He cocked his gun, his back pressed against the rough bark of a tree. He trapped his breath within his trachea, not daring to breathe. He clutched the gun in his hands, the cool metal digging into his skin. He held it so hard his knuckles began to turn into a pale color. He perked his ears when he heard rustles and swerved his gun to the sound. Sweat began forming along his brow but he made no attempt to swipe it off. His gaze and form was fixated to wear the noise was coming from. But the noise was cut off and silence was left behind. Nothing. He remained in place. Seconds turned into minutes and he finally became unfrozen in place and slowly ceased his tight grip on the gun. He swiftly moved past the rotting corpse and made his way around the large trees that loomed over his head, blotting out the skies above him.
He took off walking with long and cautious strides, glancing around every now and then.
In front of him… was a man. He had a gas mask on, hissing every time he exhaled. He wore an oversized black sweater and his hood covered half of his face. A few strands of unkempt hair poked out here and there. In his gloved hands, he gripped the black handle of a knife. Its bloodthirsty edge pointed towards him as if to deliver judgement. The balanced, keen blade describing a graceful arc of glinting steel juxtaposed against the solid carved grip. The hooded man was hunched over, and he twirled the knife to and fro around his fingers… as if he was waiting for him to come.
He halted. Every part of him screamed to run away, but his muscles refused to work. The hair at the back of his neck bristled and blood pounded against his ears.
The masked man ceased to twirl the knife around his fingers. Ever so slowly, he raised his head and set his gaze on him. The man hissed and clutched the knife, ready to plunge it into him.
He blinked, and the imaginary chains that bounded him into place shattered. He immediately sprang into action and cocked his gun, pointing it to the masked man in front of him. He released a breath that he was holding within his lungs.
“W-who are you? What do you want from me…?”
The masked man did not answer. But took a step forward towards him.
“Answer me! Who are you?!”
The cycle will prevail, the man answered in a sibilant whisper. The masked man was dangerously close to him now and he was losing his patience. He held his finger over the trigger, pointing the gun’s barrel at his chest. A gun shot reverberated across the dark forest.
No… he couldn’t believe his eyes. The masked man did not react. He did not flinch, he did not hiss, nor did he barrel over and groan in agony. In fact, there he was—just standing there. The bullet wound left merely a dark hole. No blood spew out of the wound. However, the masked man seemed rather angered. His breath hitched in his throat and he staggered back in surprise. What?! How…? But he had no time to just stop and think. He had to run. Or else he would die. Turning on his heel, he sprinted out of the area. Blood rushed through his ears and he dared not look back.
He ceased his pace and stopped abruptly. There he was… the masked man. Right in front of him. His dark eyes widened. How can this be…? He was just— before he can process what was happening, a searing pain blossomed in his stomach. His eyes trailed down to his stomach, a knife was plunged through his stomach and he felt warm, thick liquid forming. The man retracted the blade from his stomach. He fell to his knees in agony and fell onto the frigid forest floor. A pool of blood soon surrounded him. The masked man looked down upon him and hissed, the cycle will prevail.
Soon, black dots speckled his vision and he fell into an oblivion of darkness.
He was running. The heavy but fraught steps echoed in his ears as he breathed heavily. A surge of adrenaline rushed through his veins; he didn’t know what was he running from, nor why he was running. He just knew that he had to run. He sent particles of dust around within each step and sweat beaded his forehead, which his hair clung to. His messy and unkempt hairs pulled his hair back as the wind whipped past his face. The scenery blurred around him as he kept sprinting, he didn’t have time to just stop and look around. But he knew he was in a boulevard. Lifeless trees that did not dance in the wind, just stood there like statues. Cars lined the side of the street and the street lamps emitted a dull glow illuminating the vicinity around him.
His lungs screamed for air but before he can process what was happening, something or someone barreled against him, pinning him down to the ground. His back and cranium came in hard contact with the street. A groan hummed at the back of his throat as he screwed his eyes shut. He re-opened them again and in front of him was the masked man. And a gun in his veiled hands. He took in a sharp gasp. It was the man from his nightmare! Though… it did not feel like a dream. But he failed to realize that dream was in fact, reality.
He swallowed back a growl, he wasn’t going down without a fight. He lashed out, though he was unarmed, he fought back with his fists. His feet connected with the man’s chest and with a great heave, he sent the masked man stumbling back. A hiss erupted in the man’s throat. He swiped at him with his fists, but the masked man kept dodging. The man caught one of his wrists in his gloved hands and bent it in an abnormal angle and a sickening crack rang though the boulevard. A foot connected with his stomach making him retch up his blood. He was sent lurched to the concrete. He opened his jaw to scream, but only emitted a gurgle. The masked man’s boots connected with his broken wrist, and landed pressure on it, making him crumple into a ball in agony. Tears blurred his vision, but he could make out the man pulling out a gun and pointing the barrel towards his head.
The cycle will prevail, until you are in the verge of insanity.
He thought he heard a hissed laugh before he cocked the gun and an echo of the ear-splitting bang sliced through the air. Nothing. Nothing but silence.
His eyes shot open and he snapped up. His heart was hammering against his ribcage as if it wanted to burst out his chest. Sweat speckled his forehead and he swiped it away with his sleeve. He looked down to his stomach. There was no wound. Catching his breath, he gazed around.
He was sitting in what seemed like a rooftop of a building. He scrambled to his feet, taking the view in. He was in a city. In ruins. Shrouds of fine dust speckled everything, buildings were shredded into splinters and the streets below were flooded into a carpet of metal, glass, and wood. Burning embers scintillated from the desolations from where once the steel buildings stood. Smoke has risen in the distance, looking a billowing cloud of darkness that tainted the skies and a thickened scent of melted paint and scorched wood hung in the air. Its smell was bitter to his nostrils—an abomination to the air.
Where… where am I? He thought. Inching a bit closer to the edge of the rooftop, he gazed downwards. He stepped back, turning away to leave. I will find out what’s going on.
He froze, paralyzed with fear and shock. His stomach enwrapped itself into knots, his heart thumping like bass drums echoed in his ears, it becomes deafening at this point. He can hear the hiss that made him freeze on the spot and deprived him of all hope and replacing them of despair, helplessness, and most of all: fear.
And there the man from his nightmare stood. He hissed, but made no movement whatsoever.
You will never wake up from this nightmare.
The masked man was inches away from his face and with a sibilance sound, the man roughly shoved him and the next thing he knew that he was plunging down hundreds upon thousands of feet. For a heartbeat, he went downward at a speed that constricted his throat that he can hardly breathe. The wind whipped against his face. However, he realized something: This nightmare was a cycle. He would never wake up from this nightmare. Each time when he woke up he’d meet death and each time would be a different outcome. He slowly closed his eyes, and waited for the inevitable.