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Tick tock tick tock. There was a loud, constant noise.
Where is it coming from? Where am I? Why can't I see?
Evina opened his eyes to a blurry white haze. His head hurt. He gasped for breath and rubbed his eyes. "What is this all about?" he said aloud. He stood up carefully and examined his surroundings. He was in an empty room. He still didn't know how he got there.
"I was traveling somewhere," he reasoned. "I was trying to find something... but what?" He rubbed his head again. The pain was starting to ease a little. There were bits and pieces of memories floating through his mind. He struggled to put them together.
"There were monks. They talked to me. They said I had to do something."
Tick tock tick tock. The noise continued. Evina covered his ears to think more clearly. But he began to lose his balance. He toppled over and rolled to the wall. Gravity held him there. The wall became the floor.
He reexamined the room and, this time, he saw a giant clock. It was the cause of the ticking. It had no numbers on it, only hands. As the seconds ticked by, the room rotated. Or in other words, the second hand controlled the direction of gravity.
Evina was seized with a feeling of urgency. "Think! What happened to me!? I was sent to find something. I had to go somewhere. I went to a house on the coast. Then I did a ritual and..." he paused. "Did I really step into another world?" He dropped and rolled to the next wall. "No. This is no world. This is the dream zone, and I have to find that memory!"
He stood up and ran to the next wall before he would start rolling. Then he darted to the clock. It was enormous, but he spotted a hole in its face. There was some kind of tunnel by the minute hand. As time passed, it was slowly being covered up.
Evina grabbed the second hand and was carried up the clock face to the minute hand, reaching the tunnel just in time. As he climbed inside, it increasingly became dark until the minute hand covered the tunnel completely. The ticking stopped, and he was alone in the dark.
Onward he crawled until it ended at another room. A light turned on automatically, and he saw himself surrounded on all side by bright red creatures.
"Stop!" Evina shouted, but nothing was moving. He closed his eyes but heard no sound. Then he looked again and saw the figures still standing all around him. "Who are you?"
Nobody answered. Evina took a step toward one. The creatures took a step forward as well. Evina continued moving until he stood only feet away from one. He saw his reflection. "Oh, it's me!"
But something else surprised him. He wasn't gray anymore, and his eyes appeared normal. It was almost like The Shadow had left him. He searched his mind but felt nothing. He was free.
I wonder where The Shadow went to. Maybe it can't survive in the dream zone. But then why would it help me to get here? I'm so confused...
There was a faint echo. Here in the dream zone, Evina could hear his thoughts aloud. The confusion and confused thoughts continued. It was hard to navigate through this maze of mirrors. It seemed that whenever he took a step another Evina would step toward him. But eventually, he found his way out into a long, straight hallway. Both sides of the hall were lined with windows that lit the hall unevenly with different colors.
Evina looked through a window and saw a peaceful ocean under a blue sky. In the distance, there was a lone tropical island. He turned to another window and saw the unmistakable skyline of Cogtropolis. The sun was setting. Through another window, he saw a castle in shambles. Disneyland was reduced to rubble. Through another window, he saw a forest full of golden trees, with leaves shimmering in the sunlight like coins. Through another window, he saw the library of Pete's Palace. A familiar-looking cat was studying in a corner.
But through the last window he saw something he had never seen before. It was a hospital. Someone was lying on a bed, motionless. Evina couldn't see who it was because a doctor came into the room and blocked his view. He spoke something to a nurse. The nurse placed a sheet over the victim's face.
Evina was startled by a sudden noise. He turned around and heard voices whispering all around him. They were too quiet and distorted to understand, but they were everywhere. He left the hall and entered a chamber surrounded by twelve identical looking doors. "Well this is hopeless," he said. "Where should I go now?"
Using gut instinct, he chose a door and opened it a crack. It was pitch black inside, and he heard the whispering voices again. He had a strong urge to run away, so he shut the door immediately. Then he selected another door. This one was more promising. It was the familiar rusty warehouse of the Sellbot Factory, or at least it looked like it. He went inside, and the door vanished behind him. The place was empty.
Evina ran to the door leading to the silos. The metal doors opened for him, but he was startled to see graffiti someone had scribbled on the wall in crimson ink. It read:
I am The Master
You are the doodle
Obedience brings treats
Rebellion brings punishment
"How strange," he said. Warily, he walked to the lift to take him to the silos. There was the sound of whirring motors, and soon he was at the top. He stepped off and gazed at his surroundings.
This factory was only partially complete. The train of thought had been interrupted, leaving gaps in the geometry. Beyond the silos was the white void he had seen before, the space where no thought existed.
I'm afraid of running into more dead ends. I should find some dreams that are more complete, maybe that's the key to finding what I'm looking for.
He went to the edge of the silo and looked down. "Should I jump?" He was answered by the sound of bending metal. This scene was disintegrating. The factory turned into dust, and Evina fell.
He fell through a ceiling and landed painfully on red carpet. Looking up, he saw the angry face of a finely-dressed human woman. "Be quiet!" she whispered loudly.
Evina stood up and saw himself in the back of an old theater. It was ornately decorated and had a large audience. An opera was being performed on the stage. Whoever was singing was terribly off key. Evina couldn't tell if the dreamer was the man on stage or one of the people watching him. In any case, the sight made him cringe. As the people started to boo, Evina walked toward the exit.
"It's terrible, isn't it?" said the usher standing at the door.
"Yeah, pretty bad," Evina said.
"You know, you could go out this exit if you wanted. But you won't find The Master by playing it safe." There was a strange grin on his face.
"What are you talking about?"
"Sorry, I figured you knew. After all, you are a doodle."
"What? No, I'm not. And who is this master you're talking about?"
"You'll find out in good time, sir. But the decision's up to you. Do you want to leave the performance or not?"
Evina paused and considered his options. "Actually, on second thought, I'll stay." He went to an empty seat and sat down. As the minutes passed, he became increasingly worried and restless.
This makes no sense. If this is a human dream, then why is the usher talking about doodles? Why did he notice me at all? Do I have any influence in these dreams? And why do I feel itchy?
Evina looked down at himself and saw furry legs. He gasped and blinked. In a fraction of a second, he was back to his normal self. Now the opera was coming to a close. All the players gathered on stage for one final scene. The singing was worse than before, and the audience hated it.
Maybe I have to take his advice and stop playing it safe. Maybe I should get in on the action to find what I need. I don't know. Should I really do this?
Evina made up his mind to do it. And at the final note, he ran as fast as he could to the stage and leaped onto it in front of the actors. Everyone gasped, and the theater became dead silent.
"Um... yeah," Evina mumbled. "I'm not supposed to be in this dream, but here I am anyway. Look at me, everyone! I'm a duck in an opera! La-la-la-la-la!"
The audience screamed and began throwing things at him. He didn't know what else to expect. The dream immediately began disintegrating, and moments later, another one materialized around him.
It was cold, dark, and devoid of color. He was in a forest, or what used to be one. Dead trees surrounded him. The air was dank and filled with thick fog. It was unsettling. Evina felt a shiver run down his spine. He didn't know what he was supposed to do.
A piercing scream tore through the air. Evina turned and saw a human girl running a short distance away. "It's going to get me!" she screamed.
Evina darted after her. "Who's following you?" he shouted. She didn't hear him but kept running. Evina tripped over a fallen log but scrambled to his feet and continued following her.
The girl stopped at a cave and turned around. She was petrified with fear and breathing heavily. There was clearly something else out here. Something was running or galloping toward them, but Evina couldn't see it through the fog.
"Come with me into the cave!" he said.
"No," she sobbed. "I won't go."
"Now!" Evina grabbed her hand and pulled her inside. "No monster will get you when I'm here."
"Don't be so sure," an ominous voice said.
Evina froze and almost had a heart attack. "Show yourself," he said feebly.
"Not now, but soon," it said.
The girl screamed and let go of Evina's hand. He flailed his arms around, but she was nowhere to be found.
"You're going deeper now," the voice said. "You've done well. Now, walk onward."
Evina gulped. "And where will I go?"
"Walk," it ordered.
Evina reluctantly walked forward. Although there was no light in the cave, he could feel the path sloping downward. The path became so steep that it became steps. The air became steamy, and he started to sweat, but he continued to walk. The further he went, the dizzier he became. The dream surrounding him felt thick and heavy. It was a feeling he could find no words to accurately describe. The still air was almost tangible, pressing into him from all sides.
At last, he reached the bottom of the cave. It ended in a cubic room with rusty metal walls. A small hospital bed was in the center of the room, with restraining straps for head, arms, and legs. A spotlight shined down on it. Next to the bed was a table. On the table was a glass bowl full of black jellybeans.
Evina became nauseous at the sight of the beans. He had never seen these before, but they felt strangely familiar to him. His mouth watered, and he felt compelled to pick one up.
What am I thinking? I don't feel hungry, and it's probably poisonous. So, why do I feel this way?
His legs became weak, and he felt short of breath. The sweating intensified. He needed to do something quick. His hand reached for the bowl. No matter how hard he tried to resist, the compulsion was too strong. He picked up a bean and brought it up to his mouth. The moment it touched his tongue, an icy cold shiver spread outwards and filled his whole body. His senses were overwhelmed, and he blacked out once more.
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