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Chapter 1

0“Can you hear me?”


I am Alive. I know I am. Or am I in Heaven?
“Comrade, wake up.”
Yes. I’m alive. Breathing. That meant he was alive, right? Dead people didn’t breathe. A tingling
sensation shot up his arm. Feeling. Right. This was called feeling. He knew that. Senses. He had
senses. Five, to be exact. No. More than five. But he had to focus on the five right now.
His fingers curled into a fist so that they tingled. Feeling. That was one. He took a deep
breath through his mouth. Stale, musty taste. Like an old warehouse. Two. He breathed again,
this time through his nose.
A sickly sweet smell bit his nostrils. He knew that smell. Three. But that wasn’t important
now. The other two senses mattered. He needed to recognize them.
That voice. Yes. He heard that voice. Hearing was the fourth sense. How could he forget?
Comrade. His name was Comrade. The voice called him that name. And he always
believed the voice. Always.
“Open your eyes, Comrade. It’s safe now.” Comrade opened his eyes.

Light! A burning light! He screamed and covered his face.


“Comrade! It’s ok. Shh. I forgot, I forgot! Shh, shh. Everythings okay, It’ll be alright.” The voice
crooned, and a body grabbed him and began to rock him back and forth.
“I should have remembered. You haven’t used your eyes in a while. It does hurt. But it
goes away quickly.”
Back and forth.
“Open your eyes, slowly this time.”
Back and forth.
Comrade hesitated. He didn’t like it. The thing called Hurt. It was like that tingling
sensation, but worse. He had felt-was that the right word?- it before, the Hurt. He knew he never
liked it.
“Please. We don’t have much time. Open your eyes.” The voice urged, and the touch
tightened. He had to obey. Or face the darkness again.
Slowly, he opened his eyes for the second time. Hurt came just as bad. He winced, but
continued to open them. Light, like before, but it was turning gray.
“Good. I knew you could do it.” The rocking ceased, the warm touch fading away. A
fuzzy gray image leaned into his line of vision. He knew immediately the voice belonged to it.
“Can you see me?”
“Yes.” The throaty sound made him jump. The fuzzy image, becoming clearer by the
moment, shook slightly, and a softer sound came from it. Laughter.
“That’s your voice. You don’t need to be afraid of it. Can you see me clearly?” His voice.
He recognized it now. Speaking was how he communicated.
Comrade nodded, another form of communication.
“What do I look like?” A strange question, but one he knew he needed to answer.
“You have long red hair, and a fair face.”
“Yes. What else?”
“Brown eyes. Pink lips. Small nose and small ears.”
“Antyhing else? Look closer.”
There was more? Comrade did as she said. She said? “You are a woman.” She laughed at
that, but nodded for him to continue. “You…you have a scar on your left cheek.”
He suddenly regretted saying it. The hurt filled his chest as he watched her smile fade.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.” He grabbed her hands frantically. “I’m sorry.” Water filled
his eyes. He didn’t recognize this kind of Hurt. The water ran down his cheek, and the Hurt in his
chest throbbed.
The woman stared at him, eyes wide. She gripped his hands. He saw the water form in
her eyes too. “Comrade…” He felt the warm sensation as she wrapped her hands around his
shoulders. “Don’t cry. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“But you-“
“I’m fine.” She pulled back. The water wasn’t on her cheeks like his was.
“Do you feel Hurt?” He asked.
“What? Do I feel hurt?” She repeated. Comrade wondered why she didn’t understand.
She said it herself before.
“When I opened my eyes, you said it Hurt. I felt Hurt when I opened my eyes, and I felt it
in my chest when you looked Hurt.”
“Oh.” The smile returned, but only faintly. “ I’ll tell you, but you have listen, ok?”
He nodded.
“Good.” She stood to her feet, and held out her hand to him. Comrade grabbed it. He
knew to stand.
“Do you feel…hurt?”
“Yes.” The horrible tingling sensation went through his legs.
“That is called pain. Pain is what you have when something hurts.”
“Will it go away?” Comrade moved one leg at the knee experimentally. So this was Pain.
“Yes, it will. But you have to walk for me, alright?” She held out her hands in front of her
“Touch my hands.”
He realized what she was trying to do. He knew his body would protest. Listen, or die.
He stepped forward.
***

How long had he been walking? Long enough for the pain to go away. He had even run a
little. That made her smile. So he did it as much as he could.
“I wasn’t hurt.”
“What?” Comrade looked up from her hands.
“When you asked me if I felt hurt. I didn’t feel hurt, or pain. I was just…confused.”
“Confused?”
She laughed, and stopped walking. He stopped as well. “That’s another lesson for another
time.” She grabbed his hands. “Listen. I have to ask you something.”
“Yes?” A fluttery feeling worked its way into his stomach. She caught his gaze.
“Do you know who you are?” She said without moving her stare.
Comrade repeated the soft throaty sound she did so many times, except his laugh was
deeper. What a silly question, he thought. “Yes, I know.”
Her eyes grew large. He felt her grip tighten.
“I’m Comrade.”
“Oh….” That same sadness washed over her face again. “I see.”
That same sad feeling burned in his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, and tried to
mimic the voice that she had soothed him with in the beginning.
“Shh, shh. It will be okay.” He felt her body pause, then press against his.
“Comrade.” Her voice suppressed sobs. “I have to say goodbye now.”
“Okay.” He slowly dropped his arms. She had to go, he knew. Why, he couldn’t
remember. But he had to listen.
“I want to give you something.” She reached inside her pocket. “Hold out your hand.”
Comrade complied. She fisted it above his open palm.
“Remember. No matter what, you have to keep on searching. Never stop searching. You
will find out who you are if you don’t give up.” She opened her hand.
A single rose petal, redder than blood, landed in his palm. Comrade’s hand shook. It was
so smooth, smoother than silk; it felt almost wrong that his skin should be touching such a
beautiful thing.
“Now, I must go.” Her fingers cupped his hand around the petal. He felt his palm begin to
squish it. His eyes widened and he jerked his hand free. Tears filled his eyes as he opened his
hand; he knew the beautiful petal was crushed.
It wasn’t.
He stared in shock. It looked the same, exactly as before, as if nothing had touched it at
all.
“Comrade.” He looked up at her; her brown eyes were misty. “This petal is very special. I
can’t tell you anything else now, but,” she leaned forward and kissed his forehead, “without it,
you won’t be able to find what you’re looking for.”
She backed away, trying to smile. The water flowed down her cheeks now. “I will see you
again. Soon maybe.” She sighed. “Now, wake up.”

****

Travis lay flat on his back. Hard concrete beneath him. Nothing but darkness around him.
Nothing. He knew he was dead. Not the way people would normally think of dead. He wasn’t in
a casket. His heart still beat. Blood still rushed through his veins.
He had found him. No matter how hard he had tried, He still found him. Every time. And
everytime, He killed him. He knew he was dead.
“Did you have a good dream?” That voice. He hated the voice.
Travis tilted his head, not to get a better look, but ever since he had started this insanity it
had become harder for him to hear.
“Can you repeat that?”
A cackle in the darkness.
“Just what I expected. How long do you think you can go on until you lose your hearing
completely?”
He stared at him. He knew he was staring into his eyes. Travis could feel the evil slither
across his irises.
“Until you release me, or I break free.”
Another cackle. A shift in the darkness.
Travis blinked. He was right in front of him. The smell of must and rotted flesh stung his nostrils.
“You can try again if you want. To break free.” A rankwarmth blew on his face. His muscles
contracted at the stench and he dry heaved. Nothing but spit and bile came up. Pain shot through
his empty stomach.
“Food, I forgot.” The voice momentarily withdrew itself. The smell subsided. Travis breathed
normally again and licked the spit from his lips. His throat was sore.
He had been alone for three days. He knew this only because the voice told him. There was no
light to judge time, only darkness. Not the pale gray found in caves or shuttered rooms.
This was true pitch.

Something shuffled to the right of his head. He held his breath as the smell returned. “Food.” The
voice dropped something near his face. It sloshed on the concrete. “Eat up. You need your
strength.”
Travis dared to release his breath. The new smell slapped him in the face. Something like fetid
meat and spoiled milk. The voice remained silent as he chucked. He sucked in air and took a few
moments to breathe normally.
He knew he couldn’t eat it. Not this. No amount of hunger or pain could drive him to do it.
“Eat it.”
Something warm wet his cheek. Travis gagged. His food was running.
“No.”
Silence. Then a sloshing noise and then a sudden sour taste. The voice had moved the stuff
against his lips.
“I said no.”
“Eat, or I’ll leave you alone with him.” A slice of fear tore down his spine at them mention of
him. Travis jerked and let out a sharp cry.
“No! I’ll eat it! I’ll eat it..” He hastily opened his mouth, paused. The voice’s gaze hit him right
between the eyes.
You wanna be alone with him?
Travis dug up every ounce of courage left and swallowed hard.
He took a bite.

For the first time in his life, he was glad it was too dark to see what he was eating.

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