The heat was uncomfortable.
The enormous orange sun proudly beat down on a young boy’s brow as his short, green hair wafted in the breeze. After a grumble, he dusted a fly off his plain white T-shirt which simply landed lower down, hiding against the contrasting black of his canvas shorts. Surrounding him was well-tended grass, he was standing in an incredible field unlike one he had seen in a long time. Nothing but shades of green in every direction.
Stood a short distance away, a young girl waved. She was his age, looking adorable in a summery, floral dress. The boy waved back and the girl, from beneath her oversized straw hat, cupped her hands to her lips. “C’mon, chase me!” she shouted through her handmade megaphone. The sound echoed in his direction a few times before she ran off into the distance.
“Okay!” he shouted back. She was strange, unfamiliar to him but her presence filled him with excitement and, even from the distance, that smile she had was friendly and inviting.
“Who said that?” The little boy shot around to check but nobody else was around. It was just him, the little girl and a million blades of grass.
“Hey, you!” the girl called out in a sing-song voice. She had already galloped a great distance away from him. She was a speck to the boy so the voice definitely wasn’t her. “Are you going to chase me or what?”
“Who’s there?” The boy pestered aloud. He was worried but able to keep his cool, after all, he was already awake.
A high pitched noise wailed in the boy’s ears. Falling to his knees, he plugged them, begging for the drilling pain to stop. It was comparable to the inside of his head shredding itself out of fear. His nose bled heavily and the ground shook. The sound was soon drowned out by a sudden cry, it came from the little girl. Without haste, the boy heaved his bloody head up to the horrifying sight of a six legged, lion-like creature with teeth almost as large as the girl herself. It was no natural creature, with skin as black as the shadow it cast and a mane of thick, red hair. Dripping cloudy saliva onto fearful grass, the monster licked its thin lips and stared intently at its next meal.
The world zoomed ahead, pushing the boy into the vicinity of the creature who had yet to notice the mop of green hair behind him. Frozen in place, the boy stood in fear as the monster lifted one of its paws. Six razor-sharp talons gleamed like polished silver in the sunlight. The little girl didn’t even have the a chance to escape as the creature’s powerful swipe tore her in half.
“How!?” he didn’t understand. The ground began to shake once again and the monster turned to face him. Its piercing eyes shared the same hue as the vicious red mane, and its pupils were triangular. The boy stood still, he couldn’t even breath. He swore the monster was smiling, licking his lips once more whilst the boy’s heart pounded in his chest. Every beat sent a heavy pain coursing through his body like his heart could pump but the blood was frozen solid.
Time to wake up, the monster told him. The menacing voice was his all along. It spoke again and again but the little boy had no words. No matter what the creature tried to say, the boy heard none of it. It grew tired easily and after that, the little boy was dead.
A young man awoke face down on a cold, metal bed. Tears streamed down his face as he screamed for his very life which, to him, seemed to be ending right in front of him. He was soaked in cold sweat mixed with blood, there was a pain throughout his body like nothing he could ever recall and he could not remember where he was. With skin-and-bone arms, the boy was only just able to lift his frail, pained body up from the steel rectangle he had slept on. What little muscle he had ached with every move. “Hello?” the boy asked to the empty room. “What’s happening? Where… Where am I?”
It didn’t take the boy long to realise that he couldn’t see through his left eye. His slender fingers, almost alien to him, felt the familiar sensation of an old cloth bandage and that was all she wrote. The boy would not touch it again out of pure fear. Instead, he opted to ignore its very existence. The room itself would not allow it: everything, even the walls, appeared to be built from recently polished steel as the entire left-hand side of his prison could be used as a full body mirror.
Timidly, he approached it. At first, he was suspicious of the lanky, green haired stranger that closed in as he moved. The stranger stood completely naked, his frail body hidden only by the insane length of his hair. The fringe stopped just above a bloodied mouth but the back continued onwards, finishing at his feet. It enveloped him like a towel, shielding the boy from the mess that was his bruised, bony body. “I must’ve been in some kind of accident.” The boy would’ve spoken, if not for the ill feeling that followed the thought.
His lips, neck and chest were all painted from what he could only assume was a nosebleed. It was still fresh, wiping it simply brought on more fuss. From behind the mess, he caught a glimpse of yellow teeth and a scar across his chest. He must’ve been in complete shock, the headache and stabbing pain weren’t helping keep him calm either.
With a shot of courage, mixed with a deep breath, the boy collected himself together and brushed the hair from his face. The entire top-left quarter of his face was wrapped tightly in a soiled bandage. Unable to tell where this blood flow had begun, the boy began to unwind the bandages. “Slowly,” he told himself, cringing as the cotton unfurled.
He kept his eyes fixed to the metallic mirror as the bandages fell to the ground, coiling around bare feet like a cloth snake ready to strike. The staring continued until a pair of scars revealed themselves to him. They were large, passing through his closed left eye like a surgical wound. Although healed, the cross shaped lacerations were a sign of forgotten trauma. He was handicapped, the eye would not open no matter how hard he tried. Even the boy’s attempt to pry the two lids apart with his fingers had no effect other than inflicting an incredible amount of suicide inducing pain.
Looking around, a set of four cameras caught his eye: one in each corner. With this in mind, the boy was suddenly quite conscious of his nudity. Thankfully, as the boy moved his scrawny behind back to his bed, there was a box. A large metal crate next to a well-camouflaged door in which a collection of messy clothes were found. A familiar outfit, each item hung from his body as though he had lost an impossible amount of weight since the last time he wore them.
A few spare seconds, wasted on a meaningless glance over himself, the boy was now dressed in a tank-top, striped blue and white. This was covered by a grey jacket and a pair of black jeans. In his hand, a white hat - a beanie to be specific - in which he held back his fringe, leaving a small flap to hide his hideous injury. He was left barefoot, not a sock to be found, and the floor was growing warmer.
Instant regret came over the boy once he grabbed a rectangular handle, which protruded from the almost invisible door. “Ah, shit,” he muttered under his breath. It, like the floor, was hot. Hot enough to burn away a layer of skin, the building was on fire. The boy had only one option: escape. He bit down on his lip, hard, to distract himself from the pain and - with all his might - pushed down the handle and shouldered the door straight out of its frame.
He shrugged his feat off easily as heat damage as a gust of hot, gassy air slapped him straight in the face. The smell was revolting, a combination of roasting wood and burning hair. There was no denying it, the building was on fire. Now, a set of choices presented themselves to the boy: left or right? Using the bottom of his tank-top to cover his face, the boy ran left instinctively.
The building seemed to be nothing but corridors and metal crossroads and everything was filling with smoke. It was becoming impossible to see what was ahead, especially with impaired sight. Left again? Or right this time? His instinct kept kicking in: left, left, left. The boy saw himself getting cocky, for the fifth turn, his legs took him right.
The boy was forced to stop in his tracks and throw up in his mouth. Regret overtook his body and he stumbled forwards. Hanging on the wall was a young man, his armour was unmistakable, branded for the New Earth Army. He was a solider, impaled by his own sword against the steel wall. The hilt of the weapon was the only indicator that it existed. The kid turned but dead ahead was a shadow, cast upon the wall by crawling flames.
The distorted figure of a wolf pulled around the corner, the turn the boy had just taken. Had it been stalking him the entire time? It hobbled forwards, a single, large, yellow eye stared deep into his own. This creature had six, thick legs and an enormous abdomen. In fear, the boy began to step backwards. The wolf followed.
Another step. The wolf followed.
And another. The wolf followed again.
The steps continued until the boy’s fingers were wrapped around the handle of the sword which had been plunged into the soldier’s corpse. It was without his permission that he summoned the strength the pull the blade from the wall. As it retreated from the soldier’s gut, blood trickled down the boy’s arm. With a gaping exit wound, the soldier slumped to the ground. “I’m so sorry,” the boy whispered. He raised the weapon to his shoulder, testing the feather-like weight and, for a split second, he smiled. It was odd like his body registered the blade as another limb. His left hand side tingled and his grip tightened. He knew how to fight the creature off but then, the creature wasn’t up for it. There was something more interesting out there, it did not have the time for the nameless boy.
It remained raised, however. The boy would not lower the weapon for anything, there was still a chance the creature was out there or even, more like it. When he tried to leave, something stopped him. A tugging at his ankle and a spluttering voice: “please…” the voice spoke, “please don’t leave me here.” It was the soldier, laying in a deep red lake of his own blood. The light was already fading from his lime green eyes, there was nothing the boy could do. He simply waited until the soldier’s grip loosened and wandered back, alone. The smoke and heat that had left the boy breathless dissipated, he was safe for now. A short walk down the corridor led him to a large, metal door which looked much like the walls around him. The sign above it read: SCARECROW RESEARCH: MAIN LOBBY
The gargantuan exit in front of him appeared impenetrable as beside it sat a palm recognition system. Upon closer inspection, the system displayed an error. Defunct, the door could be opened with a simple push. It led to an incredibly open room which looked so massively different to his former surroundings that it felt like he had wandered into an entirely different world.
It was a bull-pen office with an air of conspiracy like those fake-wooden walls were cardboard, disguising a larger cage just for him. He cast his hatred into one of the walls, punching a hole through the faux-timber. The force knocked a golden plaque off a neighbouring wall which read: MAIN LOBBY and fell hastily in front of the exit, a glass door.
The boy stood there in front of it, resting his hands of the frosted glass that obstructed his view. It was cool to the touch, pleasant, which left the boy wanting to stop completely. To slow his breath and rest, even momentarily. With all the worries around him, he just wanted to take his mind off the aches and the pains which refused to subside.
In the distance, a faint sound approached from behind the door. A tapping which grew heavier and heavier. Without thinking, the boy pressed his ear to the door. Something was getting closer.
The boy pulled his sweat-ridden body from the door and dived out of the way, dropping his collected weapon in the process. His jump was well timed, just as the blade hit the floor, two figures came bursting through the door and shattered the glass into snowflakes. “ARGH!” is the noise the smaller figure made. This figure, undoubtably human, carried a large axe that had previously been driven into the larger figure.
It was a he, and he pulled himself up from the creature’s body with a roar. This man looked so powerful as he brushed the confettied shards of glass from his bulky shoulders and spat at his enemy. “Take that, you Shinigami scum,” he called out, “that’ll teach you to mess with Hideki Toramaru.”
The brick wall of a man began to retrieve his axe from the body of the enemy. The tall ceiling left an incredible amount of headroom for the weapon as the boy watched it reach twelve o’clock before slamming straight back down, beheading the beast below. Hideki called it a Shinigami, a God of Death. Surely not? The axe hit but mustn’t have cleaved completely through as the beast behind the rubble released a bubbling, pained groan which was in no way human. It shook once more, dislodging any debris that blocked the boy’s view, revealing pitch black fur. It looked just like the creature he had seen before, the one that had better things to do. This Hideki must have been what had drawn it off but its eye still focused on the boy as the last spurt of bloody fluid burst into the air.
The man removed his axe from the body, wiping away the dirty red from his face like motor oil. “How long ‘ave you been there?” He asked in the worst English accent a man like him could concoct, he must’ve seen the boy in the corner of his eye, waiting for the right moment to speak. “Hello?”
It was safe to say that Hideki Toramaru was the epitome of unfortunate characters for the shocked boy to encounter first. He looked like a steroid junkie with shaven brown hair and a beard of the same description. He wore a strange, dark orange trench coat that cut off near his knees, thrown open to reveal his bare chest which was only partially covered by a sweat-stained button up shirt. His faded, torn blue jeans had been stolen straight from another era and, despite the seriousness of the situation, the boy found a smirk. “What’cha smiling’ at, kid?” He replied in that awful accent, already losing it. Hideki Toramaru was also smiling.
“S- Sorry,” the boy replied, rising slowly from the floor to pick up the katana he had dropped earlier. Still a little wary of Hideki, a quiet voice in the back of his head told him he probably shouldn’t trust the body builder with an axe. He must’ve noticed the kid’s darting eyes as Hideki lowered his axe and asked the poor boy his name. There was no answer to that question though, the boy just stood still.
“Don’t worry,” Hideki said, “I can tell you what’s wrong. Memory loss is a normal symptom of what we’ve been through. It’ll come back to you soon, don’t you worry.” He continued to speak but the boy stopped listening. “What?”
“I said, I woke up not even remembering my w-“.
“Not that. What have we been through that caused this?”
“Oh,” he said, “you don’t know, do you? You woke up here, right? Alone? Box of clothes in a small cell?” The kid nodded cautiously, “this is the Scarecrow Research facility, built to continue testing the responsiveness of the ‘Eden’ drug.”
“You don’t.” Hideki told him, “it’s just a cover up.”
“Weapons, specifically biological weapons. The human kind, do you know what that means? Us. You, me and anybody else who might be trying to find their way out of here.”
The boy, grasping for any words he could muster, simply spluttered. “How many are there?” He avoided the important questions.
“Could be thousands,” he replied. “It’s all very complicated and all these monster’s fault. They call them Shinigami but they’re not their namesake. They’re just animals and we’ve each got one living inside our heads.”
“Now you’re just mad,” the boy claimed, “what’s next? We’re actually on the moon?”
“Have you been getting a little whispering, boy? A voice telling you where to go? Don’t trust the man with the axe? That’s him. Your Shinigami Lord and, if you don’t take control, it’ll start to corrupt you.”
“How do you know all of this?”
“I interviewed a guy.”
“I don’t like the sound of that.”
“It’s the truth.”
“And he told you all of that?”
“Well, he did lose a lot of blood in the process, if I’m honest. Exsanguination is like a synonym for truth serum.” The big word confused the already twisted boy, his head pounded and brushed each syllable off without a thought, “let’s just say we’ve got the blood of demons floating through our veins, and it’s not going anywhere for a long time.”
“You’re a mad-man,” the boy said, “but we need to leave now.”
“The building is on fire, I know.” He said, as though he was the original cause, “the exit is this way, I’ve already had a look. Just follow me,” he said, walking forwards but stopping almost immediately. He turned to the boy. “I guess,” he began, eyes intently on the scars across his face, “your experiment has something to do with your eye. I can’t call you kid forever, can I? How about…” he waited for a second and the boy watched him study him. His eyes focusing on the wealth of extraordinary hair, “green?”
“Don’t you dare.”
“Is it natural?”
“I don’t doubt it. Right then! Let’s get a move on Saboten.”
“Saboten!? Like, cactus?”
Thank you for taking the time to read this chapter.
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