This is a continuation (of sorts) of my last post. This is the first of ten planned stories featuring these eight characters. Feel free to leave comments; hope you enjoy!
It was raining again, which was just as well. It fit the mood perfectly. Nero, Red, Albus, and Adrina raced through the street, maneuvering around abandoned cars, avoiding potholes filled with water. Behind them, the screams of their pursuers reached up to high heaven, challenging the distant lightning for the position of “Loudest Noise.” Nero briefly looked behind him, to see one of the creatures, little more than a skeleton, clambering over a truck, its mouth wide in hunger. He could also see Adrina racing behind him.
“Hurry up, Adrina!” he shouted. He turned forward again, but something felt suddenly very wrong with their situation. Not a this-is-bad-and-we’re-going-to-die wrong, but more of a this-doesn’t-mesh-with-reality-as-I-know-it wrong.
“Into here!” Red called from the front of the group. He ducked into a building off the side of the streets, Albus quickly following him. Nero and Adrina brought up the rear, and they entered what looked like a gymnasium – a basketball court, dark and unused. Nero looked behind him, but the way they had come in through had vanished, replaced by large, wooden double doors. Ah.
“This is just a dream,” he said aloud.
Red gave him a strange look. “No it’s not. Look.” He pinched himself. No reaction.
“Okay, so maybe it is.”
Albus and Adrina also pinched themselves, and neither reacted.
“Wait…” said Red. “Are we all dreaming the same dream, then?”
“I guess so,” replied Albus.
“How could you tell it was a dream?” Adrina asked Nero.
“You’re not in a wheelchair.”
“I suppose we could have also guessed that because of the number of necroids,” added Albus.
“Well, there are some cities with that many,” Nero contradicted.
“Well, how did we get here?” Red said.
“I think it was that tentacle monster we were fighting,” Adrina mused.
“So how do we get out?”
“We don’t,” answered Nero.
“Oh, don’t be so cynical.”
“I’m not being cynical – I’m being realistic. If we aren’t waking up upon realizing that we’re asleep, then it’ll take a long, long time before our bodies wake us up for real.”
“Unless Vi, Giovani, Aurus, or Cheng wake us up,” Albus pointed out.
“True, but it may still be a while before they finish off the monster. Or it may finish off them.”
Albus and Red frowned.
“Well, we might as well do something while we wait,” suggested Adrina. “Is conjuring basketballs a thing in…oh.”
They were no longer in the basketball court. Instead, they were back in their home. The only thing giving them any light was the distant moon shining through the window.
“How did we…” Red started.
“It’s a dream,” Nero interrupted. “Don’t question the logic. Like, what’s that doing over there?”
There was a fourth door, this one in the middle of the window. It was almost imperceptible, save for the dim outline and the black keyhole. Adrina ran over to it, running her fingers over the keyhole and its outline. Nero frowned and stuffed his hands in his pockets.
His eyes widened in surprise, however, when he felt an odd shape in his pocket. Removing it, he found that it was a key, thin and black.
“Now the question is if we want to find where this door leads,” he muttered.
“What was that, Nero?” asked Red. “Wait, is that a key?”
He snatched it from Nero’s hand and hurried over to the new door, putting it in the keyhole and twisting. A click. Red pushed, and the door swung open.
They all hurried through the door, only to find themselves in a long, concrete corridor. It felt like they were somewhere underground. Ahead, the corridor took a sharp turn to the left. As they followed the corridor, they passed several discarded boxes. They rounded the corner – and there were the boxes again. Nero frowned and turned around, only to find a door behind them.
“Let’s keep going,” he suggested.
So they did. Each time they turned the corner, they found themselves in the same place as before. Nero estimated that this happened about ten times. However, at last, for no reason he could think of, they suddenly rounded the corner and ended up in a white room – with no doors or windows, nothing, save for a pedestal in the center holding a green gem.
“Have we ever been here before?” Albus asked, walking toward the pedestal, his eyes fixated on the gem.
“I don’t think so,” replied Adrina. “Does it feel familiar?”
He picked up the gem. All at once, the four of them felt as if a great force had taken hold of their bodies and pulled them somewhere new. The white room vanished.
They stood in the middle of a huge cathedral, lit only by candles near the altar and on the sides. Outside it was storming, with lightning and thunder rocking the sky more frequently than should be possible. But over all the thunder, they heard one solitary scream shaking the walls.
“That sounds like the tentacle monster!” exclaimed Red.
The cathedral door shuddered. They twisted toward it, their hearts racing from the atmosphere. Nero checked to see they were all there, but Albus was missing. Well, not missing, just walking toward the altar.
“Albus! What are you doing!” Nero called after him.
There was no answer, and the door shuddered again, taking all of Nero’s attention. He made another check on the others, but now Adrina was gone. And so was Red. Nero turned toward the altar, running over to Albus.
“Adrina and Red are gone!”
Albus didn’t respond. Instead, he collapsed to the floor.
“Nero, help me…” he muttered.
“Right. How do I do that?”
Nero took the gem from Albus’s hand, quickly dashing to the altar and placing it down. Again he heard the monster’s screams echoing around the cathedral. He blinked. Everything was fading. His vision grew blurry, darkening, until it was all black.
He opened his eyes. Giovani was standing over him, a worried look on his face.
“You’re awake,” he sighed. “Good.”
Nero raised his head, taking in the room he was in. He remembered where he was: they had been fighting the tentacle monster here, though it was far messier than he last recalled. The four that had stayed awake had trashed it quite a lot.
“Where’s the monster?” he asked.
“It ran,” replied Giovani, standing up. “For some reason, in the middle of the fight, it let go of Red and Rina, and just put half its tentacles on Al. Then, a couple seconds later, it just turned and fled.”
“Well, at least it’s gone.”
Around him, the other three who had been trapped in the dream were waking up. Violet was attending Adrina, who was back in her wheelchair; Cheng helped Red to his feet; Aurus sat next to Albus, who was blinking his eyes open. Nero stood up; but as he did so, he felt something clinking in his pocket. He reached in and pulled out the object, raising his eyebrows in surprise.
It was the black key.