A boy slept. Darkness was warm—intangible yet comforting, a blanket of endless tranquility melding into his skin. He was happy for some reason, undeniably happy.
Until... he surfaced from the perpetual darkness. The boy opened his eyes, his breathing ragged. A bright white light shone upon him, pulsing above in a vast expanse of pale blue. It was shining too much for him to bear. What was it? He closed his eyes, attempting to block the light and re-enter his blissful slumber, but it somehow pierced through his eyelids, illuminating everything from within.
Too bright. Too bright.
His neck tickled, and a certain permeating smell seeped into his awareness...an earthiness mixed with a sickly sweet scent. The boy opened his eyes once again. The light was seemingly dimmer now—softer, less piercing. He shifted his head sideways, and as his bleary vision adjusted marginally, he noticed a few long blades of grass fanning over him like a green-brown canopy.
The boy blinked away the blurriness of tears. He seemed to be sitting in the middle of a golden field of tall grass, or was it wheat? The ground was pulsing slightly, emanating an almost imperceptibly faint light. That color faded into the sky, pale yellow and blue seamlessly blending together in the air.
The boy sat up weakly, pushing himself up on the soft ground and staring at hands in front of them. Hands...his hands…they were unfamiliar; strange. He glanced down at himself; he was wearing a grey shirt and grey pants and his feet were bare.
Where was he? Distant noises reached his ears, but as if he was submerged in a viscous liquid, he only heard muffled and abated sounds.
Strange. He did not recognize anything, but panic had somehow eluded him. As if the peaceful lull of the wheat field was soothing him, pulling him into the ground to fuse as one with the earth.
Maybe he could return to sleep—to the darkness of his slumber.
Until the boy noticed a body lying right next to him. The body of… a little girl. He blinked. And blinked again. How had he not noticed her until now? He numbly tried to crouch up, but he fell back, wobbly legs too weak to support him. Tried again; fell again. After a few more failed attempts to rise, he gave up and studied the girl from the ground.
She was still—completely still—hidden underneath the golden blades of grass. Her complexion was faint, almost invisible. Eyes closed, lips parted, face relaxed...she looked so comfortable, so comfortable. Watching her, he suddenly felt sleepy once more, and his curiosity and questions began dissipating. He wondered if he could feel that way if he closed his eyes, if he let feeling of nothingness wash over him.
Yet a nagging sensation was pressing against the lethargic folds of the boy's mind. Like...he was supposed to know something, like he was supposed to feel something. It was a dim sensation of urgency. The muffled sounds seemed to be getting louder, but they were still hard to discern.
He reached out to touch the girl, to wake her up, to ask her about where he was. However, before he could, right when his fingertips were about to brush her skin...
She disappeared. Exploded into millions of little lights.
And his eyes widened for the first time.
The lights formed into a small glowing gold orb, the same color as the wheat, suspended in the air as if held by an invisible string. For a moment, time seemed to be suspended as well, hanging in indefinite uncertainty.
Then, the glowing orb flew towards him—towards his outstretched hand which had frozen in confusion. It entered through his fingers, and a strange sensation of heaviness yet lightness filled him, flowing through his veins and coursing through his body. He absorbed it.
The boy fell back gasping in shock, unable to grasp what had happened. He stared at his hand, at the place where the girl had lain. Again at his hand, at the place where the light had appeared. What was going on? Where was he? What was he doing?
Inexplicably, his lethargy was gone now, leaving him racing with questions. That nagging sense of urgency in the back of his mind, formerly covered by layers of sleep, had surfaced. And with that urgency came panic. The boy stood up suddenly.
He had no idea where he was and how he had arrived.
He had no idea who he was.
That was when he realized he was not alone. Those previously muffled sounds were louder and more audible now: distraught shouts, and screams, and crashes, and thuds. His blurred vision had cleared as well. And as he staggered up, he began to see for the first time what he had missed.
Thousands of people were fighting in the fields of tall wheat and grass around him—female and male, young and old, animal and monster. They were wearing different outfits and sporting different appearances as if they all materialized from separate worlds—using bare hands to choke and punch, weapons to slash and stab, guns to fire and kill. Leaking from their wounds was a golden light which the boy had also seen from the sleeping girl.
Shouting. Stabbing. Killing.
The boy blinked. Why were they fighting? Where did they get the weapons? Were they bleeding... light? It was golden, spilling onto the grass in its disturbing beauty.
He watched as a tall stringy man, with a shout of victory, delivered a fatal blow to another who fell to the ground and shattered. The shattered specks of light disappeared into a golden orb, greedily absorbed into the attacker. But that very man, as he turned, was then felled by another, a bird with the head of a man. The way everyone fought...it was a strange sight to behold, sordid yet fascinating.
The boy trembled, but he was unable to move as he dumbfoundedly gazed at the slaughter around him—unable to comprehend, unable to form a complete rationale.
Until a sensation began seeping into him, gripping his limbs, welling up in his blood. It was whispering a low an urgent tone, but he could not hear it very well. What was it saying?
An object whizzed by his face, small like a bullet, and along with it came a pain, a sharp stinging pain on his cheek. Something wet leaked down in its wake.
And that was when the feeling registered within him; that was when he finally distinguished the low whisper.
It was fear.
Whispering to run.
The boy jumped forward and began to sprint just as an axe came down from behind him, cutting the flimsy grey fabric of his shirt. From his peripheral vision, he caught a glimpse of a creature with the body of a man and the head of a falcon who had allegedly just tried to kill him. It was the strangest sight the boy had seen—almost laughable—had he not just nearly died.
As he fled, he realized he was lucky the grasses were tall, for he had been able to pervade attention at first when he was laying down. But now, he couldn't just go back to sleep in the grass. He needed to get out.
Chaos and turmoil razed the land. The boy gasped for air, swerving blindly to dodge away from people. His feet squelched in the mud, pitted from the fighting, and edges of the wheat stung his hands. Where could he run? Where could he hide? Nowhere, it seemed.
His only advantage was that his body was brimming with more energy than before. He felt lighter, his senses acute, his vision and hearing enhanced. Was it because of the strange light that had entered his body? Ever since the glowing orb was absorbed through his fingers, everything had changed.
And if not for that strange occurrence, he would have died by now.
The boy swiveled his head around. Two people on his right were wrestling each other to the ground; one man gripping a tiny knife stabbed the other below him while shouting an incomprehensible language.
He veered away, just as a woman wearing a red shirt appeared from the side and began chasing him. She too, was shouting a strange language. A sharp object tore at the boy's shoulder, eliciting a red flaring pain.
A knife—it must have come from the woman. He cried out, stumbling and incidentally avoiding the next knife meant for his head. The weapon, whizzing past him, lodged deep in a young man's neck right in front of him, who sagged down and was finished off by another man's sword. Dead; he exploded into light.
The boy choked slightly as tears began to stream down his face. No. No.
Luckily, the dagger-throwing woman had stopped chasing him and was engaging herself in another brawl. His little reprieve would not last long, however. He needed to protect himself with something, anything.
And then the boy noticed that lying in the tall wheat were weapons abandoned by the dead people, lying around so innocently, unstained yet dangerous. Big ones, small ones, sharp ones, dull ones. Where did they come from?
He saw a hatchet. No. It was too big for him to hold.
A wooden stick. No. It was too dull to protect himself.
The boy kept running. His foot stepped on something sharp, cutting between two of his toes, and it hurt. He grit his teeth in pain, pausing momentarily and glancing down. Two daggers which were lying next to each other, quite sharp with scarlet hilts. They appeared small enough to hold, sharp enough for protection. They would do for now—no—they would have to do.
He desperately swept his arm down to grab both in one hand, stumbling and staggering with a now throbbing foot. Everything felt like a dream, a terrible dream. He veered off to one side, dodging a kick yet again, and then he saw it.
People were finally thinning out in one area. An opening, an exit.
Though he was still quite far away from that area, just knowing of it was so satisfying. If he could just run a little more, if he could just survive for another minute or two, he could live. Live. He could get out of this hellhole; he could figure out who he was, what he was doing in such a strange world; he could-
All of a sudden, a man pounced on him, throwing him to the side. The boy felt a sharp pain in his chest before his breath was completely knocked away. As if he was submerged under water, he choked and flailed, but to no avail. He hysterically slashed with one of the daggers to feel it hit flesh. Yes.
However, an angry—not pained—shout resounded from above him in the same language he did not understand. His head was abruptly slammed into the ground.
More tears leaked out of his eyes; he was gasping, sobbing, crying. Would he return to the ground and disappear forever? Would he shatter into a million pieces? Would he be absorbed into another person? He could not get up; he felt too heavy, and everything was fading into a white haze.
Curses and shouts from above.
Hands on his throat.
Squeezing him, choking him.
Running out of air.
It hurt. It hurt.
But suddenly, the weight crushing him seemed to lessen, and then it vanished altogether. The boy lay there for a moment, disoriented and dizzy, before registering his situation. What? He coughed and wheezed, retching on the ground as he flipped over to see what had happened.
An older girl stood over him with puffy cheeks and squinted eyes. Illuminated by the sky, her silhouette appeared to glow. She was shouting something to him, yet he could not understand what she was saying. Shouting. Shouting. Shouting. It was too loud. Why was everyone shouting?
She raised a knife in the air. He cringed back reflexively, hands tightening on the daggers as he covered his head and waited for the blow. However, it never came.
The boy looked up to see a calloused, outstretched hand extending toward him; it stopped right in front of his face. He struggled to focus. What did it mean? The girl was still shouting something amidst the chaos—perhaps, did she want him to come with her?
Acting on instinct, the boy reached out, and his wrist was snatched by the girl's strong fingers. He was abruptly jerked up; his shoulder strained and almost popped. And without hesitation, the girl began dragging him away at a high sprint with such a force he could not even keep up.
They passed by many people, barely dodging fighters and weapons. The boy tripped over a body. And another body. In his mind, he could only ask one question.
What was going on?
But as he stumbled, as he jerked back and forth, as he gulped for air, he was aware that the rough hand he held was warm. Hot, almost...like the sun. He could do nothing but trust that the warmth would bring him somewhere safe—not burn him.
For maybe, maybe the destination would be a better place.
The boy closed his eyes and blindly followed the girl, relying only on the pull of her hand as he ventured into the unknown.