Draft of the second chapter. You can find the first on my account. Any remarks are welcome
A familiar ceiling. I had this exact thought, waking up - or rather, appearing - in this room. A room, as it wasn't my own.
The uncanny resemblance - flakes of paint raining from the walls; the narrow, soggy blanket or a strong scent of honey - didn't fool me. Cluttered at random spots, with epileptic colors on every entity, the layout screamed discomfort. I liked this sight, but it wasn't my own.
Once, I imagined such a scene. When or where are irrelevant. Before my eyes, in the worse way my mind could think, there it was. From the ceiling, sparkles swirled in the air.
To my lack of surprise, I was calm. In a trance, admiring what my eyes told me. I experienced this situation many times; this instance, the details were sharper than usual. I blamed this fact on my stress.
A knock came from the door. A heavy lump of wood, turned into a smoother, flawless surface. I couldn't rub my fingers to check - however - in a dream.
Feminine and hazy. It was such a voice, like trapped in an opaque fog. It wasn't English - yet not too far either.
Blurry, as was this person's identity or her motives, I waited for the scene to unfold, curious.
A lump in my throat prevented any sounds from escaping. However, as if my intentions were conveyed, a muffled creak rung out.
From the door appeared a young, fair-looking girl. She was about three-quarter my size, with a combed fringe on her forehead. The remaining hair dangled on the size, curving around her neck. It was a dull, black hue.
Her dainty features, contrasted by a stern, loose formal getup, gave away an age range. About ten or fifteen points younger than mine. She gazed at me with tired eyes - maybe, hints of disdain.
I frowned. This girl sparked no memories, nor was she an idea. As stress crawled on me, it dispersed away at the same time.
My expression spelled misplaced curiosity. The girl rolled her eyes.
"Student. May I know your number?" She asked in a faint voice. I didn't get the meaning of her words. Pulling my vision towards neck height; there, I saw it. A dangling green piece of plastic, and a number.
'1002.' I tried replying. Again, if there were any, my words were foggy and inaudible.
The girl nodded, then gazed at her wrist. A black watch hugged it. She lit up the screen, tapping in varying spots for a few seconds; when a noise played, the maneuver ended.
"The ceremony is in twenty minutes. I'll go down in a hurry if I were you."
Her tone, attitude, and actions were all foreign. A question irked the back of my head.
'Kid, what is your name?'
Confusion. Like I'd dropped a hammer on her skull. With a head tilt, she sighed.
"Kid?" She shook her head. "Rei, why?"
'I wanted to know'
The answer I chose. The girl's blurry voice didn't let any emotions out. I only heard noises and vibrations. However, from her lifted brow, I mused my poor decision.
She turned back, slamming the door. The lack of sound made it seem lighter than a feather.
Alone. The slight boredom drew me backward, following a ray of light scattering through a large window. I leaned forward, peering.
Nothing like the reality I knew - and yet, the differences were scarce. The city extended in mazy avenues, alleys, all bustling. People swarming the streets, clean and organic paths. A high-end, fancy city that I couldn't afford.
From my height, the people were blurry dots. Clouds were at arm length, stroking my fingertips, like the view from a plane. I sighed - the gray, cluttered sky ruined the scenery.
I gave up trying to find any logic. Objects or ideas were cluttering the sight, whose shapes and purpose were beyond my knowledge.
It was often the case with imagination.
Soothed, I walked. To the tiny aperture between the door and a wall, throwing my body into this gap. Beyond the room were corridors. A navy-blue paintjob on the walls, constructed with an unknown material. As I gazed, it seemed to distort, waves spread on the smooth surface, now turned rugged as sand.
Another trick of my stress. I was getting distracted.
I turned around, observing my room's door. Though the inside parts were made of dark wood, this sight resembled stray metal sheets scrambled one above the over. Each had a different, neon-bright color. I loathed whoever's idea it was.
On top of the piece was written a number. Golden, sheeny digits engraved in the material. They were the same that I told the girl. The doors on my sides didn't look that lavish, made of far more aggregable wood.
I was starting to have headaches.
The corridor appeared to blank. Even without noises, I could experience the emptiness. Then, the girl's words surged back.
A ceremony. That's right, I did remember that part. Intuition pulled me toward this fact, without a clue regarding its relevance. Such of lack of life had an explanation. I mused that they were linked.
I strode, counting the numbers that dwindled as I walked. LEDs hid above the blue ceiling, creating a sheeny surface. The absence of windows or glass concerned me.
Each step felt as if my feet dug into mud. The path spun on the sides, twisting its shape in wavy, stretched rectangles. My brain hurt, thousands of needles tickled it.
When I arrived, it took me a minute to realize this fact. A wide lift, built in glossy glass panes that could fit an army. It flowed in a glass cylinder, giving off a panoramic view of our city.
I pushed a flickering red button. Doors parted ways to let me it; I did with clumsy steps. As a muffled noise rung out from above, the open-air spectacle wasn't anything new. People got closer as I scaled down the floors, morphing from dots to tiny ball of color. An improvement.
The lift hit the ground without a noise. In front of me was a room; I leaned on a balcony. Calling it a 'room' gave me a sour impression.
It was an architecture, grander and fancier that any other. A cylinder, built in spirals, occupied by endless rows of numbered seat, curving on themselves, rising to my level, then above, until stroking the ceiling.
Then, the ceiling. A golden chandelier hanged from it, extended in multiple curly branches. Its base, a thick, sheeny lump of carved ore, hovered under the ceiling. The piece had light scattered in a pretty, psychedelic pattern over the entire room. Laws of my world seemed to bend.
Again, I didn't care much. For me, this place was a beehive. A constant, lilting buzzing noise bothered my ears. At the lower levels, people were swarming the vacant seats. Some, installed for an eternity, battled to secure their early place. A silent battlefield - in reality, it was the biggest mess imaginable.
I peered at them. Young, teenager-looking kids, clothed in the same uniform that the previous girl wore. For men, a cream-colored set of slim pants and jacket, layered on top of a white shirt. Despite their contorted expression, excitement seeped out of that fade.
For me, it was like seeing a regiment of nobles, whose faces exuded a distinct charm of haughtiness. Despite this feeling, if I dared to observe details, a blur would spread all over their bodies.
Superficial. I spotted the elevator girl on my right, over to the balcony's other section. It was a structure of such a size - maddening. Her features, once familiar, melted into one another; they became unrecognizable, a blank slate.
The reddish, golden hue dimmed down, together with a whistling. It flew through the room, across the darkness, and danced into my ears. I wanted to believe this scenario - for me, a gale stroked my eardrums.
My eyes - anyone's - darted downwards, to the circle's center. Sunlight crashed into an elevated scene, where a figure coughed.
He was a petite figure, and he was a man. Struggling to find a footing, his - long - coat slumped on the floor, meeting the man's feet once or twice. Under it was a loose black shirt that covered tight-hugging pants; most noticeable, charcoal boots around the ankle.
A well-kept, flowing mass of ginger hair fluttered. The whimsical wind guided it. His wrinkled skin, crooked nose, despite a round pair of expressive eyes, molded a disagreeable sight. It was neither my idea nor character.
Headaches never stopped hammering at my brain - it grew worse as the man took a step.
The hushed breaths, reverbing on the room's frontiers, accentuated my impression.
Gaping mouths. And deaf sounds of awe. Those were the students'.
He coughed once more, straightened his curved back.
"Ah. Can you hear me?"
I mused that a low voice rung out. Enough that my foggy state couldn't make one of his words.
Then, he repeated that question. A shockwave ripped me apart. Across the room, against everyone; nobody was spared. The man's voice pulled me away for a second, until my consciousness returned.
Everyone else had their eyes glued to him.
"You know me. I think." He exclaimed with a sour tone, playing with a bang. His act and appearance were contrasting forces.
"As the founder of this academy, it is my burden to continue this introduction. Thus, I shall."
Taking another step, the man escaped the dim lighting. His rugged skin became glimmery. Like a barrel of oil.
"Welcome to Heigel. Our city has been the Cornerhouse of witch-hunt for decades, and I intend to stay it as such."
Each of his words were thunder strikes. The petite figure, standing alone on stage, dominated the wide area. He didn't move an inch.
"If you've passed the entrance exam, then I have no doubts about your battle prowess. Most of you would be capable of dispelling tiny distortions; who knows, a group of you could help in a larger operation."
I felt the collective gulping of many students. It made me chuckle. There was an evidence underneath the head's words.
These kids. They made them fight. If my imagination created them, it meant a bloodless struggle.
I lied, of course.
"I'm joking. For now. In a few years, these words shall become your reality. No, they must."
The man's glare pierced through every will. Mine, too. Each seconds, his words became blurrier, my senses were faint. I couldn't see my arms anymore.
"If you've chosen to enter an academy, Heigel's, you need the bear the responsibility of these words. Remember them."
Never seen before colors cluttered my vision.
"Your success is another one's failure. If you cannot handle this weight, I suggest you leave this room this instance. There is no shame in that."
I caught glimpses. Flashes of the scene. With a trembling hand, two boys fled to the main hallway a level below. Their faces embodied cowardice.
Then, a dozen or so mirrored that gesture, until nobody twitched a limb.
"I assume that the remaining are willing. Truly, I welcome you."
As he swilled around, the head's back formed the last picture I remembered. His narrow back felt like a shield of steel.
Then, I disappeared, like it should've always been, together with this world.
That's how my imagination worked. Walking in mud, through the confines of my thoughts.
I never understood why my mind could twist. Many feelings were tangled. Disgust. Then, scarce enjoyment. These distant lives were my precious blankets.
If an issue arose, I could roll myself in them. This hour or so was complete freedom. That was how - my slacker behaviors considered - I managed to earn some money by my stories.
Now, I floated in this blank space again, waiting for my room's ceiling to welcome me. A matter of seconds.
I thought that minutes, or years passed. Time used to never erode my patience, but at this pace, it was starting to.
An orange veil began suffocating the void around me. The flawless black gave his crown to a softer color, like a fall breeze.
Sensations irked me again; I was sightless, and - normally, in my room. In tandem, the scent of foliage and the rustles of leaves manifested. A gentle chill hit my sore neck.
Screams. A voice was calling for my name. As my vision lost its foggy coat, I could make out pieces of words.
A wrinkled leaf fell on my shoulder. My body sat on a hard, wooden bench. I rubbed my eyes.
This wasn't my room. Rather, there was a towering construction of glass panes and neon ahead. Twenty meters separated me and its transparent entrance. The army of mirrors blinded me with reflected sunlight.
An orange, scarlet color dominated the dusked sky.
I gazed at my feet, digging a nail into my cheek. A sharp pain.
A foreign feminine voice hurt my ears. Standing at arm's length, I noticed a rough-looking woman, whose messy hair fell on her forehead. She had haggard eyes. I felt like a circus beast.
Her black, loose uniform distinguished her from the students. The scabbard at waist-height, too.
I wondered how these facts remained in my head.
With a blank look, my vocal cords rung.
"Yes?" This was my best answer. Furrowing her brows, the woman sighed at the sky.
"Are you alright?" A drop of sweat fell on her eyelid. "Why did you run away from the Khaal? You looked like a madman, really."
I frowned, gritted my teeth. Finally, I laughed.
"Khaal? That spiraling room?" My voice was an inaudible whisper.
The woman's confusion bloomed into worry. "Of course? You're a cadet, and you don't know that?"
I didn't answer, eying the ground. A chestnut on a nest of dirt and dust. My chuckles continued to flow.
"You don't look goo-"
While crouching, her hand approached my forehead, before being slapped away. I breathed, panted, pulling on my hair.
"What are you..."
I saw her eyes before the world turned black.
'It didn't happen.'
This sentence played in my mind, over and over.
Yet, maybe a minute after, nothing changed. My point of view was different, the sky had darkened a level. I rested on my back with a hollow look.
"Ah. You're up."
It was the same woman and another presence. I made out their clothes' colors and outlines.
"How are you feeling?"
This voice seemed masculine. I had nothing to say. The two exchanged whisperings, before landing their attention back on me.
"Can you walk?" The woman asked.
I nodded, that much was obvious. Silence ruled a dozen seconds.
"Do you know the way to your apartment in the academy?"
No. Yet, I nodded again.
After another silence, she thrashed it again.
"Are you alright?"
Then, without a reason, I had to speak up.
"Not at all."
I felt out of place.