Chapter Twenty-Five

The door that was halfway down the hall turned out to have a little frosted glass window set in it, about face high. There was no name on the door, and Griffin found out from peering through the window that there was nobody inside. They would have continued down the hall—in fact, Genevieve already had—but she raced back, saying someone was coming in a hurried and hushed voice. Griffin grabbed the knob to the glass-window door, and found it was thankfully unlocked. The three of them ducked into the room and hoped whoever was coming wasn't coming into this room.

Silently, the three huddled together, listening frantically as the footsteps sounded closer and closer.

Of course… It was the only room down this hall…

They all dived into various hiding places as someone opened the door shortly after they had dived into it. Genevieve found herself under the large black desk in the middle of the room. Griffin wedged himself behind a coat rack that just happened to have a long stylish coat hanging off it that he could hide behind. And Suzu twisted himself as small as he could get and crouched behind another potted plant in another corner. All three of them held their breath as the secretary from the front desk came in, brown hair twisted into a severe bun on her head, and that sharp, downward shaped mouth that strict women usually had.

The secretary placed a folder down on the big desk. She didn't seem to notice any changes in the air around her at all. The door shut with a faint click a few seconds later. All three of the teenagers blew out a sigh of relief.

"That was…"

Genevieve started to come out from under the desk, when the door opened once more. Genevieve sat there, half in and half out of the desk, staring at the secretary with her mouth hanging open. Her wide brown eyes met those of the strict looking woman, and Genevieve still sat there frozen. She couldn't think of a word to say.

"Who are you, and what are you doing in here?" The secretary asked, in clipped tones. Genevieve quickly scrambled up, smoothing her skirt and turning red in embarrassment.

"I'm sorry. I should explain…" Genevieve stalled, still trying to think of something suitable to say. Suzu saw her pretending to still be smoothing the back of her skirt, but she was really conjuring a note paper and balling it up.

"As well you should." The secretary came over and gripped Genevieve's arm, dragging her from the office. "I just might call the police in for this."

As she left, Genevieve dropped the note paper on the ground.

The door slammed shut this time, and Suzu could hear Genevieve saying something about a report on the Corporation and how nobody would see her, so she thought she could sneak in and demand an interview and the secretary saying that she should have known, even young reporters were little harpies. Suzu waited until he could no longer hear their voices before he ventured out from where he crouched behind the potted plant. Griffin also came out of his hiding spot, looking worriedly out the frosted window. Suzu, meanwhile, bent and picked up the wadded up note paper. Griffin turned back as Suzu unballed it.

"What's it say?" Griffin whispered.

"I don't know yet," Suzu replied irritably. "I've just opened it."

Written in Genevieve's tiny, girly scrawl, in pink gel pen, was the following message:

"Don't try and rescue me. I'll think of something to get myself out of this. Get that thing ASAP. –G"

Griffin, looking antsy and full of nervous energy, looked back out the window, then back at Suzu.

"Well, what's it--?"

"She's telling us to go on without her." Suzu handed the paper over to Griffin, who snatched it from him like it was a lifeline or something. "Where's this stupid machine located? We need to get in and out fast."

"It's downstairs, in their basements…" Griffin said, after devouring the letter with his eyes and pocketing it. Again, he looked out the window, as if expecting someone any moment.

"Will you relax already?" Suzu said, grabbing his arm and hauling Griffin away from the door. His nervous energy was contagious and getting to Suzu. "How do we get to the basement?"

"Well, we should go now, while that secretary is still distracted… Actually, it's kinda stupid that we're hiding. We coulda just come straight in the main office. The people here know me."

Suzu blinked with incredulity.

"You…" Suzu felt himself boiling with anger over the senselessness that had just happened. He curled his hands into fists, fully wanting to punch Griffin. A soft rattling noise could be heard in the background, but Suzu didn't care. "You let Genevieve get caught, and maybe questioned by police… For what. Reason?"

The rattling in the background grew louder, and Griffin was looking wide-eyed over Suzu's shoulder. The objects on the desk, paperweight, penholder, a lamp, picture frames… They were all rattling about on the desk. Suzu turned and saw them, and knew immediately that he was the one doing it. He cut off the negative energy, and just slammed Griffin into a filing cabinet nearby.

"Let's just get this over with." He said, through clenched teeth.

-BREAKTHING-

Meanwhile, Genevieve was being grilled, but not by police. She was sitting grimly in a chair, her hands twisted in her lap, trying not to look at Hollister. She was angry at herself for being so stupid to be caught, and even angrier that the stupid secretary had brought her to the son. She was not even good enough to see Hollister's father, it seemed.

Hollister was leaning against a desk, one ankle crossed over the other, his arms folded casually, and a half-lidded smirk on his face.

Genevieve wanted to kick him in the nuts. That would stop all his smirking.

"So, again… What did you think you were doing in that office?"

Genevieve lifted her chin. "I already told you! I'm not saying anything to you!"

"Eventually, you're going to have to. Or would you rather I called the police?"

"Anything's better than you!"

Hollister shook his head knowingly. Genevieve wrung her hands together harder. She hoped this was stalling enough for the boys. And she would really rather not speak with the police. A criminal record could ruin everything for her. She'd be kicked out of tennis and probably never get into a good university. Finally, she stood up, flouncing forward and into his face, though she had to get on her tiptoes for that, because he was good foot taller.

"Listen you, stop bullying me! We're on to you! We know all about you and the Dream Eaters! And you have to stop it right now. You can't let them keep carrying on like that. Look how many people are going into comas. What would you do if it happened to someone you cared about?!"

"Maybe I don't care enough about anyone…" Hollister said, looking at his nails in a bored manner. Genevieve pushed him with all her might, and he half toppled over onto his desk. He huffed like he was really going to start, but Genevieve continued on.

"Shut up and listen, you jerk! Maybe you're a soulless son of a bitch, but most people aren't! Most people want to do something to help! Even the people who don't know what's going on, like the scientists and doctors watching over the comatose people; they're trying so hard to help! Some of these people never wake up again, or their families are so full of heartache, they give up! How can you live with yourself--!"

Hollister was red in the face now, and picked himself upright and glared self righteously at Genevieve. The fury in his face plainly told her that he would have revenge. She went white.

"Now what are you going to do?" She whispered.

Hollister smiled evilly in return.

-BREAKTHING-

Griffin led them to a small area in the back, past the little intersection and through a whole maze of corridors that Suzu was mentally memorizing, though he itched to write it all down before something happened and he forgot everything. Griffin was going at a punishing pace, too. He seemed determined to get the job done. It's about damn time, too… Suzu thought, annoyed with both himself and with Griffin. He should have learned this guy's buttons before. He'd be easier to manipulate that way.

Suzu realized that was hardly a friendly way to look at it, but he still didn't fully trust Griffin, and he didn't really think Griffin trusted him. After all, if Griffin could really just walk through the front door… Why hadn't he? And if he really had permission to be here, then why did he keep looking anxiously around? Things weren't adding up for Suzu, and he was starting to feel less and less confident about this mission, the more that he gave it thought.

After the whole maze of boring corridors, they finally started down a very long hallway with grey cement flooring, and no attempts at looking fancy. Suzu felt like he was going to barf from the tension. The hallway seemed ten times longer for it. When they finally reached the end of the hallway, Griffin stopped at the door, hand hovering over the doorknob. Suzu stood behind him, heart racing, impatient.

The door was a heavy metal one, a plain pale grey color with the number 09 painted on it in stark black. Suzu found himself shivering uncontrollably. He drew closer to Griffin, almost touching him back to front.

"What's the hold up?" Suzu asked, clenching his teeth so they wouldn't chatter and rubbing his arms.

"Nothing." Griffin said quickly. His indecision seemed to blow over. He opened the door.

Suzu had half expected the door to be locked. But it opened into an enormous room; though that room was downstairs. They were on the top floor landing of what appeared to be a basement laboratory. Both Suzu and Griffin stared over the edge of their landing. There were strange devices flashing with colored knobs, and computers with numbers on them, making little beeping sounds. There were what looked like a whole row of prison cells all along the eastern wall, and a long tube full of liquid towards the northern center of the room. There was nothing in it, other than the clear liquid. The stairs they stood on out stretched downwards to the western half of the room. The two of them started down the stairs slowly. When they reached the bottom, Suzu took a few steps closer to a long panel with glowing buttons, staring but not comprehending what all the buttons did. He dared not touch them.

Suzu had not realized his shivering had started again until he felt Griffin's arm around his shoulders and dragging him closer to his side. Normally, he would have fought him off, but he accepted his help—for now. It took a lot of his energy not to let his teeth start chattering loudly. The laboratory was empty of people, even the prison cells had nothing in them. Suzu stared round at everything.

"What is this place…?" He whispered the question to Griffin. For some reason, Griffin's grip on him tightened, causing Suzu to look around in alarm. He saw nothing he hadn't seen before.

"It's where they created the mutated Dream Eaters…" Griffin said. Suzu noticed now that they had stopped walking. A familiar searing pain began echoing through his mind. Suzu tried hard not to let on, but it was a pain that could not be ignored. White, white light seared his eyes, and his ears began to ring loudly. Suzu clapped his hands over his ears. He closed his eyes against the pain in his head, making a small whimpering noise as his knees buckled out from under him. Griffin held onto him strongly, but looked bewildered.

"Hey, wha…?"

Griffin trailed off when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. He took a deep swallow and turned, still holding onto the trembling Suzu.

-BREAKTHING-

It was a black room. As far as Suzu could see, the walls were black, the floor was black… There was no light, it was just… black. In the corner of the room, there was a figure, curled up in a ball.

"Marley?" Suzu asked in a hesitant voice. His voice echoed hideously, but the figure didn't move. Suzu drew closer, squinting his eyes in the hope that he could see better. Now that he was closer, he could see the figure was smaller than Marley, and he lay on his side. Suzu knelt beside him. "Who are you…?"

He reached out a hand to the small figure. The figure's head moved very slightly; his hair, as dark as everything in the room, fell across his face. His eyes opened a tiny crack, then closed again, quickly, as though he was wincing. He curled into a tighter ball, and Suzu could hear him whispering something to himself over and over again. Suzu dragged himself closer, twitching a hand towards the little one's shoulder. But when he touched his shoulder…

A huge roar emanated around the room, and it shattered. Everything around Suzu shattered, even the little boy. Suzu stood up, looking around the emptiness wildly. There was nothing under his feet, there was nothing above him or around him except pressing, suffocating darkness. The roar continued. It was a horrible, otherworldly sound. Suzu found himself chilled to the bone again. He started running, towards the roaring.

"HELLO?!" Suzu shouted, his voice echoing over and over again around the darkness. "HELLO?! Who's there?!"

The roaring ascended, it sounded like more creatures were roaring.

"Why are you running towards it?" A soft, sleepy voice asked Suzu. Suzu whipped around, but nobody was there. He screwed up his face and shouted into the nothing:

"Wh-who said that?!"

"Why are running towards it?" The voice repeated. Suzu spun around, swearing that he heard the voice somewhere behind him, but still there was nothing. Suzu gave up asking questions. Apparently, he was only supposed to answer them. He had no idea what was going on, but he'd try and play this game.

"Because…" Suzu's voice wobbled a little from cold, frustration and yes, even fear. "Because, the little boy might be getting attacked."

There was an almost surprised silence. Somehow, Suzu could feel the surprise, even though he himself was not. Then the voice laughed, a short, rusty laugh, as though this person didn't often find himself laughing.

"You care what happens to the little boy?"

Suzu shivered again, glancing around the darkness, hoping he'd see anything, even a shape of a shadow, but still there was nothing.

"I don't know him. But I…" Suzu remembered the curled form on his side and felt an overwhelming sadness wash over him. He rarely felt so badly for someone else, but when had he ever seen someone so utterly miserable? Someone so young, at that? For Suzu knew that whoever it was, he was young. Just a child. It was not just the size, or the childish curve of the cheek. It was… a feeling, a very strong feeling, that he had. "I feel like I have to do something. He's all alone out there, with those… monsters. Someone has to protect him."

As the last word left Suzu's mouth, a red flash rent the air, and then another, and another, until the nothing around him flashed all red for a moment. Then everything seemed to slope downward. There were several Dream Eaters, they were hovering over a bed of a girl. The girl put up a horrible fight in her sleep. She kicked, screamed, shouted and sobbed, but nobody came to her rescue. Suzu tried to move forward, but his legs would not move. His feet were rooted to the ground. He tried to shout back to the girl, but his voice was gone. He struggled and pulled, but nothing came from all his effort.

The little girl in the bed… Her cries grew weaker, her skin grew pale and grey, she lay pallid in her bed. The Dream Eaters left. Then the scene melted away and there was another one, with a little boy sitting alone on a hilltop, watching the sun set in a pink sky. His back was to Suzu, but he knew it was the little boy from the black room. He was singing something in a small, disjointed voice. Suzu tried to come to him. This time, he could move.

He walked slowly up the hill to the boy, and he could hear that the boy was crying as he sang.

"Hey? Are you all right?" Suzu asked in concern. The boy carried on, as if he could not hear Suzu.

"I have no power…" The sluggish voice from before said, behind Suzu. Suzu turned around slower this time, but there was nothing, and when he turned back to the scene on the hill, it had turned to a dark night in a strange graveyard. A group of men stood in a circle around a basket.

For a split second, Suzu thought he saw a lovely woman with blue eyes crying out in anguish, but it disappeared as quickly as it had come, and the grim looking procession went on. Suzu edged in so that he could see what was in the basket, though he felt he did not want to know. He could hear a strange, throbbing heartbeat all around him. It made him feel ill.

Over the circle of men, there was a dark, billowing cloud. It was enormous. It was black, black as the black room. Black with no hint of light. The throbbing heartbeat got worse. It thrummed in Suzu's ears so loudly, it drowned out anything else. The vision of the woman flashed through his mind again. This time, blood trickled from her parted lips. She looked dead.

One of the men looked up at the cloud. Suzu recognized his eagle like features.

"Hollister's father?" He said it aloud, but nobody heard him. The thrumming in his ears was horrible. He took a step forward, towards the basket, an awful, sick feeling washing over him. He didn't want to keep going, but he took another step, as though he were possessed. The men around the basket began falling, trembling, convulsing. Even the man who looked like Hollister. He fell to his knees, making awful choking sounds. And still Suzu moved forward. He looked into the basket…

With a horrified gasp, Suzu sat up, smacking his head violently into something hard. He fell back, stunned, his head spinning. "Oooh…" Suzu closed his eyes, moved his head to the side. He smelled laundry detergent. His eyes slid open, and he saw that he was looking into the worried eyes of Genevieve.

"Are you okay?" She winced as she smoothed some hair back from his eyes. Suzu found himself thinking this is how mothers are supposed to be. Then he found himself thinking he was very fatigued feeling, and his head ached from the knock it took. Suzu searched her head for a bump.

"Did I hit you?" He mumbled. He could not seem to get his eyes to open properly, and his voice sounded slurred, even to his own ears. He felt lost in a thick fog.

"No…" Genevieve's lips quirked upward, and she looked up, past Suzu at something—no someone—else. Suzu found himself moving his head thickly to follow her gaze. He was looking up into Griffin's grinning face, though there was a hint of worry in his green eyes as he looked down at Suzu. There was fine bruise forming just above his right eye.

"You were really out of it, flailing and shouting in your sleep…" The grin vanished from Griffin's face after he said this, as though he had plastered it on for show. "What happened? You were shivering like it was freezing, but it's 80 degrees, and then you went limp and…"

Suzu averted his gaze. He stumbled into a sitting position, his movements awkward. He put a hand to the side of his head. He felt like he was underwater. He lolled to the side, collapsing against Griffin's chest. He was too weak to push himself away, much as he wanted to.

"Is he okay?" Suzu heard Griffin ask Genevieve. He didn't hear anything else. He passed out again.