Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Dreams are illusions. When you go to sleep at night you're sent to another world. A world where time simply doesn't exist, nothing and everything makes sense, and it rebuilds and deconstructs upon itself. Dreams were a big mystery since the dawn of man. They were like a virtual art piece, created by an artist such as Picasso or Salvador Dali. You experienced everything in the art piece, and in the end, you wake up and wonder where all the time went, and ultimately, what it all meant. Dreams in of themselves were big puzzles, and many psychiatrists today believe that they are puzzles that show the dreamer's fear, love, desires, maybe even predict something in the future. They were always large scale phenomena in the brain, to be in a completely different place in your head whenever you shut your eyes in your bedroom.
But to be in another person's dreams…dream analysts as early as Carl Jung may have written that there were some cases where someone suddenly implanted themselves inside another person's dream, and it's like a window into another person's mind. However, these cases have always been classified as rare, and doctors have always wondered when they could create a device that would allow them to see inside a patient's dreams. Psychologists have always wanted to get literally inside their patients' heads and put together that puzzle, to understand them fully. For many years, they've talked about developments for this kind of device, but for as long as people knew, such a device was as much as a dream when you fell asleep at night.
There's a lone building in the southwest side of Station Square. Tall, glossy with its metallic exterior, wide windows you could see through, although some were covered with blinds, to keep what was going on inside the room a secret. It had a nice tended garden in the front of it to keep the people who were about to enter the building calm, with its many poppies lining the garden with their crimson petals and ink black faces that always seemed to curiously peer at the visitors.
It was called the Station Square Psychiatric Institute, the one building in the city that made most of the leading psychiatric discoveries. When you entered the building, you are met with the usual type of landmarks in counseling and psychiatric buildings. The carpet with the small red and green dots, coupled with the smell of medicine and the anxiousness of meeting your doctor, while you waited in your seat as the young children loudly banged the building's toys and not talk in their normal voice when addressing their mothers, and you thought they were yet more children who were being prescribed Ritalin. However, this building was more careful in their decisions. They rarely if ever gave these rambunctious children amphetamines. "Children will be children. And you need to enjoy it, cause soon they aren't going to be like this anymore and you'll wish for those times again."
The building was also a research center, with its many doctors studying and recording certain cases that took place in their rooms, writing down or sending their findings to psychology journals. The Station Square Psychiatric Institute is one of the leading finders of new techniques and studies, as the institute was led by a very famous and prolific doctor that some said would one day find the cure to mental illnesses such as autism and schizophrenia. His name was Dr. Gerald Kintobor.
Journals have written that he was as influential as Sigmund Freud. He was even listed in a magazine's Top 100 Influential People, making his spot on #3. He led studies that have helped other doctors understand some psychiatric illnesses better than before, such as Dissociative Identity Disorder and even have once helped improve the lives of somewhat sociopathic patients who entered his building. He knew as soon as he graduated high school on honor roll that he wanted to be a psychiatrist, and he studied laboriously in college. He also made the Dean's List and graduated with a master's degree and a Ph. D. It was then that he worked in the institute, for over 20 years. He was old now, balding and his mustache an ashy gray as gray as his eyes that were hidden well underneath his glasses. He loved his job, and knew that he did it well. But he thought this device that he worked on, day and night, for over five years, was probably the best thing he had ever accomplished in his life as a doctor. But he knew the device he created still needed a few tweaks and advancements before he could make it known to the public. The only people who knew about this device, however, were only his most trusted colleagues and patients he knew would keep a secret about it. There were many people who worked in the building who didn't even know of the device's existence, and until he could make those tweaks, he wanted it to remain that way.
It was a small, square, gray system with a red gem in the middle, always gleaming in the light brightly as he turned on his single desk lamp. It would attach itself to the head of his patients, picking up brainwave signals and breathing, but also there would be a projector screen, showing what was happening in the patient's mind like a movie. Sometimes they seemed to be those old 50's cheesy sci-fi flicks Gerald watched religiously when he was a child, sometimes they were extremely colorful and vivid, almost like an animated feature film. Attached to it was a head device, much like headphones, that would allow the user to go inside the patient's head when he was dreaming. Their brainwaves would suddenly become entwined, and that person would be transported to their dreams. Then the user could try to understand more on what the patient was feeling in their dream, even help them conquer their phobias and anxieties. And the user could also experience everything in this surreal world, even feel pain and feel anything they touched. There were even some dreams where the user could smell something in it, sometimes a good smell, such as his favorite food, or the smell of blood stinging his nostrils.
Yet another patient came in through the door that was labeled TOP SECRET RESEARCH, a door that could only be opened with a keycard. This particular patient of his talked about a recurring dream that he began to get in most of the nights he actually managed to sleep, and he always reacted the same: waking up in the middle of the night, screaming bloody murder and waking his wife and child. He was haunted by it constantly and feared going back to sleep. He actually didn't sleep for five days, and he was still sweaty and jittery as he lied on the cot, with many of the wires protruding from his head.
"You need to relax and breathe slowly," Dr. Gerald assured him. "If you keep fretting about going to sleep, we'll never be able to do this research. Breathe slowly, count to 10, and try to relax."
"I'm sorry, Gerald. Ever since this dream began to haunt me, it's been difficult for me to relax enough to go to sleep. As I said before, I've been up for five days. I'm too scared and worried to go back to sleep."
Gerald knew that his patient was too wired. The device picked up rapid heartbeats and erratic brainwaves that caused his mind to move like a freight, going from one thought to the next as the man continued to sweat and shake. He knew he needed something to calm him down. His advice was useless to him right now.
He called on his assistant to give him a sedative to help him relax. "Give him a dissolvable tablet of Ativan. He is literally sweating himself to death, and I don't think my advice is doing him any good."
His assistant nodded, as he quickly ran to the pill table to get out the rosy pink discs. Ativan, 25 mg. It should do the trick.
The man continued to worry, his breathing and heart rate still bouncing rapidly through one of the screens. As his eyes glanced the room, he saw a gloved hand in the corner of his vision, jade eyes peeking at him as he held a small paper cup containing the pill. "Take this. Don't worry, we're just giving it to you so you can relax. I assure you it's not laced with anything."
His voice carried a hint of irony, as if he was trying to humor him. But he believed him, as he let the pill melt in his mouth. The effect was immediate. Gerald could see that his heart rate decreased dramatically, his sweating and thoughts slowing down. It was then that this green-eyed assistant was talking to him, but not about dreams and psychological terms. Just ordinary, regular conversation he participated in with regular people.
"So you have a wife, huh? How is she doing?"
"Oh, well besides my insomnia and her being worried about me, she's doing okay. She recently got hired as a secretary. She's been working a lot to support me and my son. Unfortunately, due to my…" He yawned, not even noticing he was tired. "…anxiety, I have to be on unemployment. And I don't like being stuck at the house all day. I feel like I'm…wasting away."
"Yeah, I know how that feels. I really can't stand to be in my home all day either. I feel like I have to get up and do something after like two hours, you know? I get bored too easily staying there."
"Yes, I…really want to go fishing next week, but…" His eyes began to slowly veil themselves, as he felt like he was being drifted away. "…my wife constantly…worries that…I'll…" It was then that his mind was blank, his eyes completely closed and his body becoming relaxed and dormant, except for his chest slowly rising up and down. He was asleep.
The movie was at first black, as if the reels were beginning to unravel, then it began to play. He saw that he was a child, playing in his backyard that he assumed was at his childhood home, a white dainty little home with large screens and a backyard with as green as malachite grass, with many dandelions poking from the ground as he played with his many toy cars. He seemed to be happy, as his mother began to approach him and talk to him, saying that when he was done playing he could help himself to lunch and lemonade. There was one thing wrong in the movie, the doctor began to notice. He saw that the sun was a bright emerald green, and it seemed to be very close to the boy's planet. It looked as if it was preying on him, preparing to devour him whole.
"This is your cue. Put the device on and analyze everything in this world. Don't try to interfere too much, however. Remember, we need to understand fully on why this dream has been keeping him up for days."
His assistant nodded, his green eyes absorbed by the darkness in the room as he went to the dream device and put the headset on.
The boy didn't even seem to notice the green sun that was warily glaring at him. He continued to play with his cars, rolling them through the dirt and the grass. He didn't care if his cars were becoming dirty. He always did this to his toys, and he didn't know how many of them he lost in that sandbox near him. He rolled them up through the hills of dirt and sand, but he began to notice that he was getting hot under the sun. Beads of sweat poured down on his face as he smashed another one of his cars away from him. He wiped his brow as he gazed up at the sun, noticing that it was slowly looming over his backyard. He thought he could even see the dark sunspots that spotted on the surface, and the flames licking the sky as they jumped up and down rapidly, flickering. He began to feel afraid. He noticed that something strange was going on, and it wasn't good. His stomach began to churn as the sun slowly rose over the neighbor's house, looking as if it was going to be consumed by its flames.
The shadows got taller, as his own stretched over his backyard. He thought he was seeing things, noticing that this shadow of his had bright emerald eyes, gazing back at him with caution.
The boy felt immensely afraid. This wasn't the backyard he remembered. This was a hellish place, and he began to wonder why his own shadow was staring back at him.
"Wh-who are you?" he stuttered. "Tell me! Tell me who you are, or I'll…or I'll…" It was then that his heart began to skip a beat and he felt like running like a cat being sprayed with a toy gun full of water. The shadow rose from the ground, having a set of wild spiky hair that looked like a very dark royal blue when he looked at it closely.
"The sun is getting closer. It's going to vaporize you if you stay out here any longer. Go to your house. Now. It's coming."
It was then that he noticed how dangerously close the sun was getting. The tree that stood in their neighbor's yard started to burst into flames. The violet leaves were consumed in emerald flames that almost blinded him when looking directly at it, as if the flames were burning magnesium. The tree curled up, its branches black and twisting, twisting into another world. The tree disappeared as if it was being transported to another dimension, as the flames turned the freshly lawn cut grass into cinders, becoming as black as charcoal.
He ran. The flames were going to reach him. The sun was getting closer, and the neighbor's house was now on fire, Mr. Stephenson screaming and shouting for help. He couldn't look away when he saw his body becoming obsidian black, his eye sockets empty as his eyes melted, his mouth agape as he could see that it was also completely black, with no tongue or teeth in sight. He was completely burned to a crisp, as he sprawled out of his house, ashes evaporating in the air as the flames ate the last of his carcass. Mr. Stephenson was dead, and he died a horrible death he didn't want to experience.
He banged on the glass doors of his house, screaming for his mother to let him in, that the sun was going to burn him into ashes. He was so panicked that he even thought of shattering the door with his fists. He wanted to be with his mother at this very moment, and he hit the doors louder, hoping she'll come back right now.
"Mom! Mom! Please! Please open the door! Please open the door right now!" he nearly screamed, tears streaming down his face. He kept banging till he thought his fists would break, as the door finally slid open to let him in.
"Mom, hurry and let me inside! I…" His words stopped cold in his mouth, as he witnessed the horror of what happened to his mother.
She was just like Mr. Stephenson. Her eye sockets were empty, her body nothing but thin skin and bare bones, her hands wretched and skinny as she began to be burned alive, her body turning completely black. She was a black skeleton, screaming for her son to help her, screaming in bloody murder as the flames ate her alive.
He began to scream in horror along with his mother, as he saw his skin becoming dark and sooty, his eyes being drained. Then he saw nothing. His brain told him that he was dead before he was evaporated from the earth.
He awoke in the research room, screaming. He was upright in the cot, until the green-eyed assistant gently coerced him to lay back in the bed. His face was flushed, with sweat dripping from his face. Gerald saw that his heartbeat was rapid again, until he began to realize his surroundings and notice that he wasn't dead or burning alive. He was starting to calm down when he felt he was back in reality again.
"So, that was your dream, huh?" the assistant spoke again. His eyes quickly noticed him when he turned on the lamp next to the cot. He was a cobalt, bipedal hedgehog, looking at him as if he was concerned.
He wiped his brow again, as his breathing slowed down. "Yes. That…was the dream that I was afraid to have for five days. It kept appearing to me every night, and I don't know why it's torturing me. Every time I see my mother like that…I wake up and scream. I've been waking up my wife and son every time I have that dream, and they wonder what's wrong with me. I…don't want to have that dream anymore, and I simply don't know what to do …" His voice began to sound as if he was being choked, as his eyes welled up. He felt like sobbing.
"I…see," he said, as he got out a clipboard and pencil, making it dance in the air as his fingers played with it, constantly making it go up and down hastily. "What do you feel about your mother? Do you still see her? Is she still alive?"
He sighed dejectedly. "No. My mother died a year ago. I loved her, but I felt like I was constantly at war with her. We argued a lot. She was 70 years old and she was coming down with the flu, and in her last days I never even went to visit her. She died before I could apologize and say goodbye." He felt a tear roll down his cheek. The whole situation always saddened him and brought a great deal of guilt.
"So you are ashamed that in your last days you were angry with your mother?"
"Yes. I wished I could've at least went to her house for a little while, just to comfort her in her last hours. But I was still angry with her over our argument and I didn't believe her when she said she was dying. And when her doctor called me to say she died, I broke down. I felt like the whole situation was my fault. I should've never been angry with her like that. I should've listened to her. But my anger took over and I told her that I never wanted to see her again. And…I regret it, deeply."
"Well," he began, finally stopping the flipping and swirling of his pencil. "I'm not really an expert on all of this psychosocial head stuff, but it really sounds like your dream is telling you that you…regret about what you did to your mother. You feel like your anger, which was probably the sun, killed her and everything in your life. Do you think that's true?"
He was silent, absorbing his analysis. "Yes. Yes, I think ever since I grew angry with my mother, my life went downhill. I feel like I destroyed that relationship between us, and I couldn't even say goodbye."
He nodded slowly, trying his hardest to act like a professional therapist. "I think by going into your dream and knowing what's going on in there, you're going to need some therapy sessions with a professional so you can get through all those feelings about your mother. I'd like to help, but I'm far from professional."
He felt like crying again as the memories of his mother began to flash in his mind. He felt miserable as the love and affection his mother gave him raced, and he didn't return it back to her. He just let her die, home alone. "I think therapy would be a good thing for me too. I really want to go back on my feet again so I can go back to my job and help support my family. But I keep feeling guilty and having no motivation to do anything, and my wife is very concerned. And I don't want to keep living like this."
The hedgehog wrote down the patient's name, along with a doctor he thought he should see in scrawled and sloppy handwriting. "I think you need to see Dr. Roshgo as early as possible. How does tomorrow at 4:45 PM sound?"
He nodded, his eyes scanning the ceiling. "I have nothing to do at that time, so that sounds good."
He wrote down the time, as he tore off the strip of paper and gave it to the man. "And remember, you can't tell anyone about what we did with your dreams and all. It's a secret, but we needed to test it on a few people like yourself so we know if it's working right. And…by the way," he added, as he smiled a little and patted his shoulder. "Listen to your doctor and take it easy. There's no need for you to be worried that much. You have a wife and kid who love you very much, right?"
He felt a downpour of tears rising from his eyes. "Yes…yes, they're worried sick about me. And I love them too."
He slowly rose, stumbling, as the blue hedgehog led the man back to Gerald, who swiped his keycard on the door and allowed him to go back to the main lobby of the building. He felt bad for that man. It seemed like he was burdened with a lot, and the story he told to the hedgehog about his mother was very pitiable.
The hedgehog returned his clipboard to him, reading his study on the patient. His handwriting was difficult to read and he misspelled some words, but he could understand it all the same. He was used to this.
WHEN I WENT IN HIS DREAM, HE WAS FACED WITH A LOT OF FEAR AND GUILT. I TALKED TO HIM ABOUT HIS MOTHER AND HE SAID SHE DIED A YEAR AGO, AND HE WAS ANGRY WITH HER IN HER LAST DAYS. HE IS FILLED WITH ANCIETY AND IS DEPRESSED. HE NEEDS TO BEGIN WORK WITH DR. ROSHGO AND MAYBE START HIM ON MEDICINE FOR HIS ANCIETY AND MAYBE GIVE HIM A SLEEPING PILL.
STUDY WRITTEN BY SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
"You spelled 'anxiety' wrong twice, Sonic. You need to work on spelling that right," he noted.
"Well, you got what I was trying to say, right? The guy is a nervous wreck! He didn't sleep for five days and I can tell he's all worked up about his mom. You really feel sorry for that guy, though. I…can kinda see what he went through, you know?"
"Yes. You almost faced the same thing in your life, didn't you, Sonic? And that's why you decided to become my assistant, so you can help people who went through the same thing."
He nodded, as he gazed at the dream device, its red gem shining in the light. "Yeah. Yeah, that's exactly why I decided to work with you. Even if I was paid less at this, I would still do this." He looked back at him, putting his hands behind his head. "Do you think the Dreamcast is going to help a lot of people? Maybe even cure them of what they have?"
His eyes were casted on it, the wires abandoned and the screens blank and empty. "That's what I'm hoping to do, Sonic. Dreams do reveal a lot about someone, and I'm hoping professionals and people like yourself can experience them and understand the patient better. But it's not finished, and I can't tell anyone about it. I know if the Dreamcast was put into the wrong hands, we're going to have many problems. I'm hoping I can get it to where it can only be used by professionals, helping people who really need it."
Sonic noticed that even in the middle of a serious discussion such as this, his stomach was growling. He was starving.
"Well, I'm going to take a lunch break. I'm supposed also take care of some unfinished errands back at my flat, and I'll be back."
"Come back at 3, sharp. We still have a lot of work to do. I'm supposed to meet a patient for a medicine adjustment, and I want you there with me."
"I always come back, don't I? I never bailed on you once or was late before, right? I'll be back as quick before you can say 'onomatopoeia'!"
Sonic knew better than to run in the hallways, however, so he had to walk. And he hated waiting for the elevator, so he took the stairs instead. Every time it was his lunch break he would go into the lobby and see that the secretary had kept his lunch inside the mini-fridge, and he had to wait for the microwave to heat up some of his food (he usually hated it, but he couldn't stand eating cold food most of the time). But he thought today he was going to go out to eat. There was a restaurant not far from the building that made really good chili dogs, and he thought that would be a good lunch to go on with the day.
He pushed through the doors, noticing the red poppies were starting to bloom again. He thought they looked similar to Rorschach tests, as if their faces were ink. And he thought if they weren't red, but green instead, they'd look like the sun he saw in Samuel's dream.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
He could see the afternoon sun hanging hazily in the sky as he walked in the streets of Station Square. He was carrying a white backpack, filled with records and information about some of the patients' dreams he analyzed. He thought he would so some work while he ate, with his chili dog of course away from the papers (he has gotten in trouble with Gerald before about chili stains on the research).
He realized when he entered the patient's dreams he was fast. Faster than the speed of light. But in reality, he ran like the average human. He was walking uphill in the city streets, holding onto a bike's handlebars with both hands. His bike looked slightly old, as if he received it in the 80's. It was a mountain bike called the Ram S7, which was probably the cheapest mountain bike there was. The pelts in the handlebars looked dirty and dusty, and there were brown spots of rust in the bike's wheels. There were some other children or teens he would run into the streets, saying why he was riding that "piece of crap" (or "shit" or "rusty old thing"), but he plainly ignored them as they kept pestering him with their questions. He actually thought it was a good thing sometimes that he had an old bike. When he was hanging out in the rough side of the streets, thieves never thought of to steal his. They probably would think when they saw him in the street: That hedgehog, with that piece of shit? He probably doesn't have shit in his bank account. Don't bother with him.
He didn't care that his bike was rusty and old. It was the cheapest he could afford, some man selling it to him for $20. As long as it could take him places faster than walking, it was all he needed. He didn't need a fancy bike, and he wasn't sure if he could afford a car right now. He was saving up to get a moped, something he always wanted when he saw them in the stores and when he began to work for Gerald. He was still a hundred dollars away, and unfortunately he had bills to pay. He sighed, followed by a rumble in the clouds in the distance. He looked up, seeing that they were a smoky dark gray, and he knew these clouds weren't from the result of being near a factory.
As soon as he got up the hill, a few raindrops scattered on the sidewalk like spotted gray paint, he hopped on his bike, and rode on.
His fur was soaking as he got to the restaurant, matted and dirty. He took his bike to the rack but didn't bother locking it to the bars. No one was going to steal it.
He was freezing as he sat on the table's round, black leather chair, the restaurant still having a hint of the air conditioner on, chilling him through his dank fur and into his skin. The local news was on in the corner of the bars, and he could actually hear it through the people chattering, the plates and silverware clanking, and the rain and thunder pattering and growling outside. The weatherman was showing everyone who watched a detailed map of Station Square, with many rainclouds covering his area. He said it was going to be a very wet weekend, with thunderstorms. Great.
The waitress approached him, commenting on his dampness and how a "poor lil' ole creature like him shouldn't be out in the cold rain". He ordered his usual, Coke with a chili dog, maybe an apple pie to go with it. He thought this place had the best apple pies.
As she took his menu and told the cooks his order and fetching a Coke from the soda machine, he saw on the news that there was a burning building, black smoke rising from the center. He knew that this was serious, as the bartender on the other side turned the volume up, the reporter literally shouting her report.
"On 10 AM today, a series of bombs were set off in the Union Square Bank building. As you can see here…" The camera panned to the front of the building, revealing a symbol. It was a circle, with a mustached man with round glasses grinning like the Cheshire cat. For some reason, looking at this symbol on the front of the bank made him feel uneasy. "…the bombs were set off to make this symbol, which police recognize is the symbol of the underground terrorist organization that Station Square has been trying to stop, called The Eggmen. When police analyzed the scene, they saw one working computer in the Union Square office, revealing a cryptic message. We are sure this is the work of the organization's leader, Dr. Eggman, as the computer quotes the popular Beatles song, "I Am the Walrus". It says "I am the Eggman, they are the eggmen. I am the Walrus, goo goo g'joob." Police are using whatever evidence they can find to reveal the identity of Dr. Eggman and bring him to justice. Although no deaths have been reported of the incident, the bank's CEO is in critical condition and is in the intensive care unit of Station Square Memorial Hospital. This is Nicole Halo, reporting."
What a cocky bastard, Sonic thought. Taunting the police like that. All year there were strings of bombings and CEOs and people seriously injured, even killed by the organization The Eggmen. The police barely knew anything about them. All they knew of, other than the taunting messages quoting "I Am the Walrus", the leader called himself Dr. Eggman and they knew there were followers that believed in his ramblings about the downfall of capitalism and the greedy rich. Sonic didn't really understand any of that, as he propped one hand on his cheek, looking bored, as he swirled around the ice in the Coke the waitress brought him. He hated waiting for his food.
He thought of never minding what happened and work on his assessments of the dreams he entered. He opened his white backpack, taking out a black notebook that he wrote down about the patient's dreams, with his shoddy and childish scrawl he dared called his handwriting. He flipped open the first page, reading it.
PATIENT NAME: MARIANNE THOMPSON
IN HER DREAM, SHE WAS IN A CHURCH, WITH SHADOWS ALL AROUND HER. THESE SHADOWS GREW RED EYES AND BEGAN TO SURROUND HER. IT WAS THEN THAT SHE FELT THEM GROPING HER AND SHE BEGAN TO SCREAM. THIS DREAM TELLS ME SHE IS STILL TRAUAMATIZED BY THE PASTOR OF HER CHURCH SHE TRUSTED MOLESTING HER WHEN SHE WAS A CHILD. NEEDS EXTENDSIVE THERAPY WITH DR. MORGAN AND MAYBE START HER ON ANTI-ANCIETY MEDICINE
He misspelled "anxiety" again, and noticed he also misspelled "traumatized" and "extensive". After checking with his electronic dictionary, he crossed them out and put the correct spellings. He still had to try to be a professional, after all. He knew working on these files in the public wasn't professional either, but he wanted to get more of his analysis down as soon as possible so he could sleep for maybe more than four hours. It wasn't like anyone was going to look, and the waitress actually knew him enough that she knew she wasn't allowed to peek at his records. "Confidential," he would say.
He wrote down what he thought when he experienced that dream, sloppily slashing his paper with marks.
MARIANNE BELIEVES SHE NEEDS TO FORGIVE EVERYONE. SHE IS CONFUSED ABOUT FORGIVING HER PASTOR, BUT THIS SHOULDN'T BE THE CASE. SHE NEEDS TO LEARN THAT NOT FORGIVING SOMEONE IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO IN SOME CASES SUCH AS THESE.
It was then that his waitress came back, with a chili dog and a small plate with a slice of apple pie, his chili dog drizzled with cheese and his pie with whipped topping and cinnamon sprinkled on it, like he asked. He put away his work and began eating, his skin not feeling so cold anymore as both of his food was piping hot. He burnt his tongue a little on the pie, but he didn't mind too much. It was damn good apple pie.
He stared outside the window, noticing the rain turned from a torrential downpour to a drizzle. Hopefully it wasn't going to be too cold and wet when he would ride to his apartment.
It was 1:32 PM when he arrived at his room in the apartment flat. Of course, he took the stairs. The elevator was too damn slow for him.
He knifed the doorknob's lock with his key, turned it, and went inside. He noticed his apartment was a mess again. His kitchen sink was still full of dishes he didn't wash, stained with red tomato paste from the spaghetti he ate the other night, along with some bowls he used to eat ramen with. There was also his bed, the sheets mangled with him tossing and turning, and his computer area where he did yet more studies and records, the desk piled with folders and papers, along with some on the floor. There were also some posters on the wall of his favorite bands, AC/DC, The E-Street Band, and Jimi Hendrix, along with a cork board with sticky notes and papers, most of them from the Institute.
He sighed, and picked up his corded phone on the small table near his bed. He had to make a phone call to someone. It was something he didn't want to do, but felt like he had to, since he promised.
He twirled his finger on the cord's curl, as the other line picked up. The voice was high-pitched and seemed to belong to a teenage girl. "Hello?"
"Hi Amy," he said, as if disappointed.
"Oh, hi Sonic, my sweetie!" she chirped happily. "Are you on your break, because you know, you promised to take me to the carnival!"
"Yeah, I know. Hey, listen, I can't be out there for that long. It's important that I have to go back to work at 3. We can only hang out for an hour."
"That's fine, Sonic! Just as long as you're going to be with me! So, you never told me where you work at. What do you do all day?"
He felt like he couldn't tell her what he actually did most of the day. He felt like she was going to pester him about his study and work, maybe even asking him constantly if she had a disorder such as ADD. He shuddered a little at the thought.
"Uh…" He thought of a lie at the top of his head. "I work at the zoo. Tough hours, you know."
"The zoo? Hey, maybe we can go there too sometime! Maybe we'll get an employee discount!"
"Yeah. Sure. Maybe. Say, I need to get ready, so I'll see you at 1:50. Be ready."
"I'm already ready, you silly!" He shuddered again. "I'll see you then! Bye!"
"Yeah. Bye." He hung up the phone, looking at the clock in the far corners of his room. It was 1:40. He only had five minutes to get ready, and he had to ride his bike to the carnival, which would also take him another five minutes. He thought he would take a quick rinse in the shower then dry up and leave. Amy hated it every time he was a little late.
As he dried his face with a towel, he looked back at his computer desk. There was him, with Dr. Gerald, in front of the Institute with its poppies, their hands on their shoulders, smiling.
He loved his job. He didn't care he wasn't paid enough, or that he dealt with serious subjects, or he thought he wasn't professional enough. He liked helping people alongside Dr. Gerald. Gerald told him he needed Sonic because he was very much like Freud's chow chow, Jo-Fi. He always calmed down the patients that entered his office and in the research room, infecting them with his positive energy. But he wasn't always like this. He remembered when he was 13, he was miserable. And he wanted to help his patients realize the brighter things in life. Life was too short to worry about how other people perceived of you or you didn't got the perfect score on your essay. You only had one chance to live. You had to enjoy it while it lasted, and you weren't sure if the next day would be your last. It could happen.
And he felt like if Gerald didn't help him when he was that miserable 13-year old hedgehog, he could've very well died, not enjoying what life had to offer him.
He looked at the window. The rain stopped. The carnival would keep going unless it rained again like when he stopped by his restaurant. He hoped at least it wouldn't rain enough to ruin Amy's day.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
He reached his destination, at 1:50 PM, just in time to see Amy at the carnival. The clouds became ash gray and lumpy, hearing the distant rumbling of thunder, while he heard the roar of the ocean waves near the coast. The ocean was black, jutting along the knives the rocks made along the shore. It looked opulent, as if he was staring at the deep shell of an onyx. He could hear the seagulls crying, possibly scavenging whatever carnival food they could find along the shore. He put his bike near the racks (once again not locking it in place), walking to the entrance as the wind blew on him, chilling him.
Amy Rose stuck out like a sore thumb. She was a pink hedgehog wearing a red dress and shoes, Sonic thinking that she looked similar to Jane Jetson from The Jetsons. She was beaming at him, crossing her legs and trying to look her hardest to look charming and endearing, but it only made Sonic want to groan even more. However, he knew it would be rude to do it in her presence.
"Hello, my darling Sonic!" He saw her shivering a little. Amy was too caught up to look nice today just for one hour and she forgot to wear a coat, he thought.
"Yeah. Hi," he quickly sounded, still sounding uninterested. "Where are we off to first? Remember, I'm only here for an hour, so you might as well make the best of it."
"I know, sweetie! That's why we're going to my favorite places in the carnival: the funhouse and the ferris wheel! Come on, Sonic, let's hurry!"
He was glad that she wasn't going to take her to a Tunnel of Love as she grabbed his hand firmly and rushed to the funhouse that was near them. If there was one in this carnival, he would puke.
Amy kept chattering away about her life as they went to the funhouse and little tidbits about how interesting she thought the mirrors were. Sonic wasn't paying attention, only nodding when she asked him a question or sounding off a "uh-huh" at the end of her statements. He tuned her out, as if he was a radio that was turning to another station. He was tuning into his own thoughts and memories.
He didn't understand the appeal of funhouses. There was an underlying sense of creepiness in them. He actually hated carnivals, but only accepted Amy's offer because he didn't want to tell her he simply didn't want to go because they "creeped him out". The haunting music that would play in the ferry-go-round, while the horses bobbed up and down, with their ceramic eyes staring at him with fear unceasingly…the lights would dance around him, a brilliant display of swiveling glows while the horses would seem to cry help me to him.
Help me, Sonic. I ran around in circles for years. I can't go anywhere else. I'm stuck to this post. Let me escape. Let me escape to the pastures out of this hellish place.
The horses always looked like they were frozen in fear, as if they were suddenly turned to stone when the man, the Carnival Man, took them away and made them his slaves. Their mouths were open, as if they were stopped mid-whinny. They were crying out to him, as they stared at him with those worried, saddened cemented eyes.
Clowns. Clowns looked like hideous monsters as they were advertised all over the carnival. Smiling wickedly at him, with their blue and red face paint that masked a deep and hidden terror. They showed a certain childishness to him, but yet the bright colors and oversized clothes did not comfort him. They terrified him. The violent red was the color of blood, blood they probably thirsted for in his body. Blue was the color of sorrow, as they thrived and were fed on it. White was only a mask. They tried to show themselves as innocent and pure, but there was only evil.
The breeze blew in his quills as he gazed back at the ferry-go-round. The horses kept crying to him, the music kept playing By the Sea in discordant, jarring notes, as the lights shone when the skies were black and the carnival became nearly empty. Many children left, with their mom and dad in their hands, reminiscing about their great day in the carnival.
Where was she? Where was his mama?
The music began to surround him. It was beginning to taunt him. The music laughed in his face, in his misery, and the tears began to run down his face. Where was she? Where was Mommy?
He saw something that was coming around the carousel. It was riding on a black stallion, that looked crudely painted, but yet seemed to cry for help to him as its blood red scarred mouth was jutted open. Pink, malformed hands. Bruised eyes. No mouth. A cord that bled ran down the stallion, thick coats of blood staining the chipped paint. A malformed creature looked at him, as it rode on the carousel, those purple eyes that gazed at him with deep contempt, displaying its fingerless nubs at him.
Mommy got rid of you, like she got rid of me! You are me now! We are so much alike! Forgotten, cold, dead…
The nubs were holding onto the bloody cord, still dripping with the red fluid as it began to drop to his body and stained his fur. He felt his throat tightening. It began to constrict him, his mouth spitting out copious amounts of blood. He felt his larynx being squeezed so tightly that he thought he would lose his voice, his body becoming crushed by this cord, the hideous thing still giving him that dead, dead glare. You're gone now, Sonic. You're gone. Mommy abandoned us both. We're both dead and forgotten. We are neither in hell or heaven. We are simply forgotten, eroded in time. A fate worse than hell.
The sound of crackling glass and the feeling of being stabbed was all he could sense. His other senses came to him, like a light bulb gathering electricity when a switch was flipped on. The first thing he noticed when he awoke was blood dabbing his fingers and silver glass that surrounded him. He could see two reflections, two horrified expressions that both belonged to him and Amy Rose.
"Sonic…w-what happened? One minute you were fine, then suddenly…you were screaming for your 'Mama' to take you home. What happened, Sonic?"
He thought when he looked at the fragmented shards of the mirror, glinting like the half moon in the sky, he could see his face when he was a child, begging him to find the answer to Amy's seemingly harmless question.
"I don't know, Amy. I…would like to know that too."
His hands were bandaged, the white strips seeping with some blood. He began to realize how much they hurt. Every time he formed a fist with his hands he felt so much pain that he wished that Amy wouldn't tell him to hold something.
The personnel recognized what Sonic did and asked him to leave the funhouse and out of the carnival. He felt some shame, as he ruined Amy's day and was probably never allowed back inside, simply because…something he didn't even exactly know what it was happened to him. He noticed Amy wasn't angry, however. She was actually the one who bandaged his fingers, while she had a concerned look on her face that looked as if she was on the verge of tears.
They were both standing by the pier, watching the water quiver and the seagulls fight for a leftover corn dog in the distance. Or at least, Amy was, just to get her mind off of what happened. Sonic could only gaze at his bloody fingers, looking guilty.
They were silent for a few moments, the thought of having a magical loving moment on the pier not even on Amy's mind. Her eyes were still fixated on the seagulls, as one of them grabbed the corn dog with its beak while the other two were fighting over it, flying as fast as he could to quickly devour his prize.
"I'm sorry, Amy."
Her eyes were torn away from the seagull's dilemma back to Sonic, who was still looking at his fingers. He then shut his eyes briefly while he swallowed, looking for the right words to say.
"I'm sorry about this, Amy. I actually wanted you to have a good time at the carnival and…this happened. I didn't mean to do that at all. I thought this was over and done with."
"What's over and done with?" she asked, as she tried to hold Sonic's hand. He flinched and pulled it away.
"It's a long story, and it's very hard for me to tell you. Look, I'm sorry about what happened. If you want, I can make up for it. We can go to an expensive restaurant and you can order whatever you want, and I'll pay. I didn't mean…"
She interrupted him. "Sonic, you don't have to do that. Just as long as you didn't mean it that's all I wanted to know. Just…the only thing I want you to do is to talk to somebody about this and get better. I think there's some kind of underlying issue that you haven't dealt with and you really need to talk to someone about it."
That's the thing, though, he sulked silently. I've dealt with it for so many years and it suddenly came back! I thought I was done with this by now!
"You don't have to make up for what happened, Sonic. It's not your fault. I want you to rest easy for a while and take care of yourself, and we'll go out some other time. That's all I ask of you. Just take care of yourself."
He looked at his watch. It was now 2:40. He had to leave.
"Alright, Amy," he said, as he began to walk towards the bike racks. "I guess I'll…take a day off tomorrow. Something like that. Maybe this happened because I barely got any sleep." He remembered that he was only able to sleep for two hours last night. It's been a long time since he had a good night's rest. It's been so long that he actually didn't remember.
He stepped on his bike, the thunder muttering and the rain beginning to drizzle. "I'll see you later, Amy. Call me if you want."
He cycled out of her distance as the rain began to pelt her, making her dress and hair soggy. She stood there watching him for a while until she finally decided to head back to her apartment.
His hands stung when he held on the handlebars, but not enough for him to consider being late. He arrived at the Institute at 2:55, five minutes early. He thought a little on how the poppies weren't going to be thirsty for a long time as the rain began to beat the earth harder and faster when he went inside.
Once again, no elevators. He hated the elevators. He arrived at Dr. Gerald's office, the white room with a large black leather seat and many books and toys lined up on the bookcases, with the obligatory green plant and fountain that cascaded on his desk, making a tinkling sound that made his patients calm down a little.
"You're early, Sonic." He noticed his bloody fingers right away. "Your hands are bandaged. What happened during your errands?"
"I took a girl named Amy at the seaside carnival and…something happened when I was in the funhouse. I suddenly thought I was a child again, staring at that carousel…and this thing…" He tremor a little at the very thought of it. "It was choking me, and before I realized it, I broke one of the funhouse mirrors and my fingers were all bloody. I got kicked out and I basically ruined her day. She told me that I should take it easy for the next few days, but…"
"Sonic, from the sounds of it, you had a flashback, from that memory when you were a child. We've talked about it before, correct?"
He nodded, while he tinkered with one of the toys on his shelf. For some reason, it gave him an uneasy feeling, but he couldn't stand sitting perfectly still. "Yeah. I realized when I was at the funhouse, I had that memory when I was eight years old. When my mother took me to a carnival and…I cried for her, but she never came back for me. She abandoned me. And…for many years, I thought no one wanted me and I was worthless. Just a piece of trash waiting to be thrown away."
He nodded his head slowly. "It sounds like something we still need to work on. You may be recovering Sonic, but you aren't done healing. You need to be patient with the process before jumping ahead to places you know will probably be a trigger to that memory."
Sonic was dabbling himself with a Fisher-Price toddler toy, a humanoid airplane with rudders as wings connected to smaller round planes with the people with the square faces and the corks for noses. He kept pulling it back and forth. "But I thought I was done with this. I thought I dealt with it. I just want to move on with my life and not even think about it."
Dr. Gerald cleared his throat. "I know you don't like waiting for things to happen Sonic, but you need to take some time on this. Many patients I see with this same condition, with these bad memories and flashbacks, need to take time on this and allow themselves to heal for as long as it'll take them. It's not something you should rush."
He heard the doorknob turning, the nurse peeking in. "Mr. Jones is coming to see you now, Dr. Gerald."
"Alright, send him in. Sonic, after we're done treating this patient, I'll need you for one more study and I'll send you off for the day. You look almost dead right now. Are you sure you got some good sleep? At least six hours?"
"Yeah," he lied. He spent most of the night staring at the glaring red numbers on his alarm clock, watching the minutes go by, while his mind tossed and turned like his body.
He couldn't speak more of it as Mr. Jones walked into his office. He was a thin man, his arms looking like thin twigs and his watch looking like it was going to fall from his body. He was wearing slacks and a black band t-shirt that neither the doctor nor the hedgehog could recognize, System Syn.
He was on antidepressants, noticing that they helped a little, but he felt it wasn't enough. The patient knew about Dr. Gerald's assistant, Sonic, and actually asked him how his hands got cut up. Sonic simply answered, "I had a battle with a lawnmower." He didn't really want to explain what really happened with him.
Dr. Gerald prescribed him a higher dose of Zoloft, Sonic assuring him that he should be patient with the medicine while allowing himself to help himself. He thought it sounded a little hypocritical coming from him.
A while later, Mr. Jones left, leaving them in the quiet, the only sound they could hear the fountain pouring water to the bottom.
He continued where they were left off in the conversation. "It doesn't really look like you had six hours, Sonic. Your eyes have dark circles under them. Are you having trouble sleeping? You have to tell me the truth."
He knew he had bags under his eyes but didn't want to observe for himself. He avoided mirrors whenever possible, even funhouse mirrors. "I only slept for two hours last night. My mind just rushes every time I'm lying on my bed. I just can't stand being completely still when I'm sleeping, and my mind doesn't want to be still either."
Sonic thought he was writing down more notes about him on a thin slip of paper, until he realized the type of paper he was using he knew was mostly used for prescriptions. He handed it to him.
"It's important you get some sleep tonight. I want you to go to the pharmacy and start taking the Valium whenever you need to go to sleep. I'm not going to make you work yourself to death."
"Doc, you know I don't need pills! I'd rather try to work through this myself! I know those pills will just screw you-…"
"Would you tell that to all of my patients who need medicine to get out of their depressed mood, or to even function? I know how you are with medication Sonic, so I'm only giving you 1 mg and to only take it when you're having difficulty sleeping. You don't need to take it everyday. I just want you to try it for one night and to see if you can actually get enough hours of sleep in. If you don't like the medicine, I can prescribe you something else, probably something not as strong. You really need to sleep, Sonic. Tomorrow is going to be a big day, and I'm going to show you why that would be."
The both of them crept out of the office door and into the hallway, past the TOP SECRET RESEARCH door into the end of the hall. There were clear glassed sliding doors that opened for them, Sonic noticing that he's never been in this part of the Institute before in all his years of working with Gerald.
The room was dark, much like the Research room, with only a few lights in the ceiling dimly illuminating it. He saw a machine, looking metallic and round, with green and red buttons flashing rapidly around it much like the game show signs he would see whenever he actually sat down to watch TV. There were many wires scattered near the machine, and into a hospital bed, where a patient actually resided on. He had black fur, his quills protruding from him as if he was a demon, with bright red streaks on them. He was a hedgehog like Sonic, except he noticed that there were also IVs and a feeding tube attached to him. He was comatose.
"You…actually had a coma patient in here? And he's a hedgehog too? Why didn't you tell me?"
He watched as Gerald took a seat on one of the chairs next to a long desk that had many computer screens and computer systems stretched across it. "I was going to show you Sonic, but I thought it wasn't time for us to discuss it yet. This was something I wanted to show you for a long time."
He captured Sonic's complete attention. He was still as his bright green eyes watched as his computer showed the patient's brainwave activity was normal, as if he was a normal, sleeping patient.
"The clincher? This patient has been comatose for over 50 years. It's a miracle and whenever I show him to other doctors it completely baffles them. A patient comatose for 50 years would be dead by now, and if he still lived, his brainwave activity would be completely gone. It's as if God had plans for him."
If God even existed, Sonic mused. "What's his name and history? How did he even get into a coma?"
"All I know about him is that my colleagues have called him Shadow. He's about 70 years old, and a very long time ago, a girl he loved deeply died and he attempted suicide by driving his motorcycle over a ravine far from here. When the ambulance arrived, he wasn't dead, but in a coma. Doctors didn't know if he had a family or any friends, so they kept him on life support, but they thought he would die the very next week. But…they found out his brain was still functioning, much like a dreaming person's. Theoretically he isn't comatose, but rather, been asleep for over 50 years." He turned to him. "And this is where we can come in. We can actually use the Dreamcast to enter his dreams and we can convince him to 'wake up'. We can both help him to deal with the grief of losing his friend and to get back into society, even if it has changed a lot over those 50 years. But I need you to be really prepared for this, Sonic. There's no telling what this patient's mind will be like."
Their bodies both jumped a little as they heard the sliding doors open. Sonic turned back, seeing their secretary entering. She was a white bat, with black wings hanging from her black, formal dress, her aquamarine eyes seeming to pop out to him as she seemed to wear a lot of eye shadow. He thought she really abused her makeup kit, as he saw whenever she had nothing to do at her desk or took a break, she would get out her mirror and start applying her lipstick or toner.
"Rouge, what are you doing out of your desk? I don't remember you having a break at this time, and you can't be roaming the halls here."
"But I remember that the office today closes at 5, so you have to finish up your research here and start closing this building, Dr. Gerald. You don't want to get locked in here, correct?"
He nodded in agreement. "That's correct, Rouge. I'm sorry. Sonic and I will finish our talk outside of the building. You may leave now as well. Thank you."
Rouge bowed, then left the room, seeming to be in a hurry. Sonic thought he saw something red glinting in her dress, but he never minded it when Dr. Gerald put his heavy hand on his shoulder.
"Please take the medicine, Sonic. The most effective treatment for insomnia sufferers is to take a medication such as Valium. How long has this sleeplessness been going on? I assume years?"
He hesitated a little, but indicated yes with the nod of his head.
"You don't need to take it all the time, but I'd advise to get it to where you're sleeping at least six hours each night. You can't be keeping yourself awake until your body and mind breaks down. That's the last thing I want to worry about. The very first thing you need to do is ride your bike to the pharmacy and get your prescription filled. And I really mean that. Take it as doctor's orders."
The Institute was closed by Dr. Gerald. He always knew Gerald was a bit of a religious man, but he always thought the office being closed early on Sunday was a little ridiculous. He didn't want people to be denied help later in the day simply because it was a Sunday.
He took his white backpack and put the prescription sheet in the front pocket. He was against himself taking medicine to feel better, but he could feel the weariness starting to affect him. When Dr. Gerald left the building he thought he was walking so fast that his mind couldn't pick up that he already got in his car and drove off. The birds and everyone's cars were also moving too quickly for him. It was as if his mind was waning in and out of consciousness, like a CD player constantly skipping a track. There would be a huge blip of consciousness that disappeared in an instant, then suddenly the player would continue to play the song normally, until it would skip again. It was as if everything was in fast forward for him.
He got on his bike, riding to the pharmacy. He was too tired to care that when he rode his bike across the street, he nearly collided with a car. The driver blared at him with the car's horn, but it was as if he couldn't pick up sounds as well.
He hated pharmacies. He hated how they stressed that you need the most expensive cold medicine for something as nonthreatening as a cold, and he didn't want everyone to look at him as he handed his prescription to the pharmacist, thinking he was fucked up and he might as well be a caged animal. He also hated waiting for his prescription, so he walked mindlessly through the aisles, reading the labels of different over the counter medicines. Even when he was reading about the side effects of a nighttime medicine saying it caused drowsiness, the words seemed to fade in and out of his focus. It was as if the words were moving too, scuttling like ants away from the bottle and causing havoc. And then the condors would try to keep these words in line, while the lizards blended into the night, their eyes twinkling like stars and then Master Starfish would pluck these stars and they will become starfish and they would light up the ocean floor and then the sea and the sky will get married and the world will be in harmony all over again until the earth fucks the sea and they ask for a divorce.
"Prescription ready for Sonic the hedgehog."
His mind kept racing and thinking much like Gerald's schizophrenic patients would think. He quickly took his bag of pills and raced his bike back to his apartment, this time not almost being run over.
When the sky fell to dusk he decided he would take a longer shower to relax himself. He couldn't get himself to using shampoo for his hair. He kept staring at the bathroom walls, his thoughts wandering. They were still racing like dogs chasing a mechanical rabbit. And then Angus Hamburger is ahead, followed by Little Rascal and The Dog Who Killed J.R., followed by Custard Eater and Pickem's Pies, followed by Dr. Eggman and the last is the Walrus, goo goo g'joob.
He still couldn't feel himself getting tired. He dried his body and crashed on his bed, seeing his alarm clock with the red blinking numbers 8:08 PM. He kept staring at it, his eyes squinting and beginning to hurt from the light, but yet he couldn't blink for one second. He thought he wasn't capable of even blinking, because he was a cat.
He thought he saw the alarm clock with big purple lips, grinning and puckering. It began to grow small four blue little human feet and walk away.
Jesus, what's happening. He looked back at the ceiling and back at his alarm clock. It was 9:24 PM. It didn't grow lips and feet and walked away. And he wasn't a cat. He was just tired, and an hour or so passed and he couldn't sleep a wink.
It was then that Bruce Springsteen began to talk to him.
"Hey Sonic, you look terrible! A little down too. Want me to sing 'Born in the U.S.A.?' That'll probably get yourself to cheer up."
He played anyways.
Then the rest of Bruce Springsteen's band played. Then Jimi Hendrix played "Purple Haze". Then AC/DC played "Highway to Hell" a little louder than the rest. "No stop signs! No speed limit!"
"God guys, will you shut up!" He grabbed his pillow and covered his face with it, trying to shut off the singing. But it was futile. He could still hear them.
His office papers began to turn into paper stingrays, gracing across his apartment with their tails wavering behind them and the bodies of paper wavering like rolling hills. His alarm clock was talking to him.
"Come on, you lil ol' cutie, give me some sugar!"
He wanted to throw it across the room, his hand about to reach for it, until its long, thick blue tongue reached over his face and licked him. It giggled madly like a lunatic as Sonic rose from his bed, infuriated.
"What the hell is going on?" he shouted, but it was masked by all of the bands on his wall singing. It was suddenly that he heard Dr. Gerald's voice amidst the cacophony.
"Sonic, you really need to take your Valium as I prescribed. It'll help you sleep better. Doctor's orders."
He groaned, irritated, but he thought it would help him to get to sleep through all of this chaos. The alarm clock continued to giggle, the bands continued to play, and as he walked across the apartment floor he could feel many colorful plastic balls gathering at his feet and being pulled away as he walked.
He went to the kitchen counter that was being held up by a dragon that gazed at him with scorning green slit eyes, as he opened up his pill trashcan. Many Valium bugs rushed out of it, screaming with their tiny voices, "Freedom!" He immediately smacked his hand on one of them. As its little feet were flattened, feeling tremendous agony, it cried out to him with its struggling breath, "Please tell my wife I love her!"
He grabbed it with his fingers (stinging), it screaming for it to not eat him. When he turned on the faucet to take it with water, turkey juice came out of it. So be it. I will take my pill with turkey juice.
He crashed on his bed as the paper manta rays flew all around him, as the snake coiled around his lamp, as his telephone became a goose and started to honk at him, and as Angus Young wailed, "Hey Momma, look at me! I'm heading straight to the promise land!"
As they all sung out "I'm on the Highway to Hell", Sonic closed his eyes, his mind no longer racing. He fell asleep.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
His name was Crutiki. Or, as his allies would call him, Knuckles. Crutiki was only the name his parents gave him. When he began to participate in boxing, people recognized his skill and decided to nickname him Knuckles. But he quit boxing a long time ago. But his name stuck. He guessed it was easier than saying his real name.
He had a good childhood. He couldn't complain. His parents may have been a little hardnosed, but he later learned they were only teaching him about the harsh realities of life. The punished him, maybe a little severely, but even though he would cry his little purple eyes out, he knew it was for his own good. They were only preparing him for the tough, sad reality that is The World. In The World, only the best succeeded and the weak died off. Dog eat dog. He learned this the hard way when at the age of 16 he moved out of his parent's condo and into his own apartment. Then he realized everything his parents said about this World was true. Bills kept piling up. He thought he wasn't good enough in his boxing career to pay them.
But he began to blame the hierarchy of The World. The rich only get richer, he thought. They began to want more of his hard-earned money just so they can live in a fancy condo like his parent's and drink martinis and go on their million dollar cruises. They didn't give a fuck about him and how much he slaved over training to beat Big Ronnie Duncan. They only cared about the little green slips of paper he carried around, no matter how much he was suffering to pay for his groceries so he can eat and pay for Tikal's medical costs.
He met Tikal a few years ago. She was a beautiful echidna, and he thought she was absolutely perfect. She worked, volunteering for all kinds of charities and taking care of children in nurseries and daycares. She didn't care she didn't had enough money to buy enough groceries for the week. She loved what she did and she was happy.
However, the mentality of his parents still latched onto Knuckles' brain like a railroad spike. He often argued with Tikal, saying that she needed to find a well-paying job to help support their costs and with her medical bills. He noticed that Tikal was becoming ill, little by little each day. She always shrugged it off and told him to not worry, but this was usually before she would hold her steaming hot head, muttering a little about how bad her headache was and that Knuckles needed to lower the lights, as she popped an Excedrin in her mouth. She said that one reason people wanted to stay in their jobs was because they got some sense of enjoyment out of them.
"You do enjoy boxing, right Knuckles?"
He grunted. "I only do it cause it's the only thing I can do right in my life. Beating someone senseless. If I actually wasn't so afraid of guns I'd be a cop."
His brother was a few years older than him. When he was 16, nearly at the same time he moved out, his brother committed suicide by putting a bullet in his brain. His parents were sad, and so was he, but he was confused when people began to blame them, that they were responsible for his suicide. He mostly stayed out of it, but yet he found himself being struck with a sudden deep sense of horror whenever he was in the presence of a gun. Even if he saw a child play with a toy one, he shuddered.
He then got a phone call from Tikal's doctor (though at first he thought it was about making his payments to him on time, the selfish rich pig), saying that Tikal had to stay in the hospital and that it was serious. Spinal meningitis. Tests confirmed it and she would need to rest easy and take her antibiotics. Although the doctor told him she would be fine once the antibiotics kicked in, there was still some stress in his voice. Knuckles wondered if he thought Tikal would die.
Many people flocked to see her. Children and their parents she would take care of in the daycares would talk to her and hand her the cards they made for her in arts and crafts. Her coworkers in her charities also would give her their "Get Well Soon" gifts, while saying, "God bless!" Knuckles felt like God wasn't blessing him at all with this. He knew he worked in mysterious ways, but he always thought of God as an asshole who would dance with glee every time the poor suffered and the rich prospered.
That day when it all happened, he could remember every single detail as if it happened to him a few seconds ago. He got seriously injured in one of the boxing tournaments and lost. His mentor told him that he had to stay at home for a while to recuperate. But he knew he couldn't. He knew he absolutely couldn't do it. Boxing was his only source of income, to pay for the groceries, the heating and A/C, and most of all, the hospital bills, where they kept Tikal. But his mentor thought his mouth and face couldn't stand any more beatings. He even knew his fists were becoming raw, even with the aid of gloves. He had to take a break, otherwise he would be in the hospital, much like Tikal, even dead.
But he refused to quit. He had to get paid doing the only thing he knew he could do. Jobs were hard to get in his area, and he didn't have enough time to submit a job resume for some bigwig to accept them into their horde. Fuck that. He had to keep beating people senseless. Even if it meant he was going to be beaten senseless himself.
But the bills kept coming. Tikal was becoming worse. The antibiotics had no effect on her. She was very slowly becoming deaf, soon the supporting voices of her friends and Knuckles becoming mere whispers, then deafening silence. When he came to visit Tikal, she could not hear him. The doctor also said that her consciousness was beginning to waft away. But yet when she realized him and she wrote on a slip of paper, "Don't worry about me, Knuckles baby. GOD will provide, and if I must go to heaven, so be it," he could feel himself burst into a wild fit of sobbing and rage. Tikal couldn't hear or notice him weeping and punching the walls, screaming, "Why God? Why?" He was led out of the hospital, crying as much as when his parents punished him whenever he was "acting up".
It was the day of the big fight that thousands paid to see. Brass Knuckles versus Ricardo the Terror. He trained for hours, barely sleeping a wink. His mentor told him he was making a big mistake, but he knew he had to do this. He had to keep going. This was the only thing he could do in his life, the only thing he felt a singe of passion for.
It was then that someone came rushing to him, someone he didn't recognize, who he could see had tears streaming down her face. She said it was important that she had to see Brass Knuckles. They told her to wait until the end of the match, but she protested. "It's about his wife and my sister, Tikal! She's…she's…dead."
The words she's dead were the strongest punch to the face he ever received in his life. It was nothing compared to the blow Ricardo gave him. But he fell to the arena floor, and he didn't get up. There was no use in fighting anymore. It was over. Done. He was through.
He was ridiculed, and he quit boxing. He felt that nothing in his life mattered anymore. He couldn't pay for the apartment anymore, and the bills kept piling up. He soon became homeless. A lightweight champion, with the perfect wife and he thought life was going to pick up for him, becoming homeless in the course of a year.
He thought the whole situation was ironic, and when he chugged his Coors and began to laugh like a madman, laughing that everyone stared at him and until he thought his chest would splinter and crack like weak wood that couldn't keep the insanity barricaded any longer. He let it out. He let all the emotions he kept inside of that weak old barricade rushing through like a broken dam. His strict, snobby parents who constantly pushed him to be successful but scorned and abandoned him when they learned he was no different than a dog's shit in a lawn. His brother's suicide, his brother that he barely knew. Quitting the only thing he enjoyed and thought he was good in, losing his wife who was his last grip on sanity…he laughed and cackled and smirked and danced. He could only express a shit-eating grin when passerbies would gaze at him eating decomposed food with maggots squirming around in it.
In that brief lapse of insanity however, he met a man who changed his life. Who helped him to get back on his feet. He said to him, "You would make a great addition to my little group of freedom fighters. I've heard you were a good boxer back in the days. In fact, you were a lightweight champion, is that correct?"
"I guess," he replied, feeling like he was going to hurl. The trash he was eating was beginning to take a toll on his weak stomach.
His glasses were glaring a bit of the sun's reflection, nearly blinding him. "Knuckles…or Crutiki." He wondered how he knew his real name. "I know your pain. I know your suffering. You, and the other people in my army, were merely whipping boys, people who kept paying all these expensive taxes and bills while you worked hard for your money, and for what? So the rich white man can laugh at your misery while he steals your money so he can continue to sip his margaritas and go play that sport only the rich selfish white men played while you sweat and bled for your money? You are simply just a hamster in a wheel, working for that white man, and I believe with this little organization, we can bring him down. There are many creatures and people, just like you, who had enough of the white man's whippings, who don't want him to sip his margaritas and play golf, but instead drink liquid shit and play soccer with a deflated ball like the rest of us. You will be a very nice addition to the army Knuckles, and you will be greatly rewarded for your deeds. This is your time to shine, knucklehead. You can make the white man, Big Brother, suffer, or you can eat out of trashcans for the rest of your life and continue to be whipped. It's your choice."
And he felt like he had no choice. He shook that mysterious man's hand, and he joined his army.
That was years ago. He was a different echidna now.
He had a strict code of ethics now. He considered himself hardnosed and strict, but that's what The World shaped him up to be, right? He stood at the entrance of the base, noting the little shining fragments of stars that hung in the air as the sun began to rise. He was drinking his morning coffee. A little too strong, but he drank it anyway. His parents would say suck it up, Tiki!
Even in the faint daylight he could see it as clear as it was morning, a hot pink Escalade that gleamed and reflected the star light, nearly blinding him. He hated the car's color and she was told that pink was too noticeable. But she was a sassy one. Told him that it was her car and if she wanted it as pink as his little brain she could. She never took orders from him, only when "the fat man sang" as one of his other members would say. And he said nothing.
The Escalade zoomed up to him, engines roaring and sand flying as she drove it. She rode fast with it, and was proud of it, even if he thought no one would take her seriously with a color that was synonymous with 8-year old girls and Hello Kitty. He thought she was going to make his eyes singe and have his coffee ruined by splashing sand in his face just to show off, but she didn't. Her engine was still running as the window to her car slowly unveiled and lowered, revealing black leather seats, blue glowing numbers and buttons, and a white bat with aquamarine eyes, wearing rosy red lipstick and purple eye shadow, her sunglasses hanging low on her face.
"I got it. While they weren't looking, I got the Dreamcast. And, surprisingly enough, it was easy-peazy."
"You got it, huh?" was all he could say. He actually had no doubt in her mind she could yank it from them. She told him that she was stealing things since she was 8 years old, and she was good at it. She would brag to them many times that she once went into a Rolling Stones concert and stole one of their guitars at the end of the show. She managed to sell it for nearly three thousand dollars on an auction site. And that was how she could afford to buy that atrocious Escalade.
But he didn't realize he was just standing there, saying nothing and staring at her. She picked up the device, its red gem glittering as the sun began to rise over them.
"Why are you staring at me like that, knucklehead? Go tell the big boss that I got the Dreamcast, like he wanted. He said if I managed to get it he would get me something real nice, so hopefully he gives his end of the bargain."
"I'm sure he will," he said. "He's the big boss, he has everything that we don't. He's like one of those Colombian drug lords you see in movies, with the smoking big cigars and owning those huge mansions. Why wouldn't he get you the prettiest gem that the city has to offer?"
He swiped his ID card in the slot, the large, metallic doors sliding open. Knuckles thought the doors sounded a little creaky as they moved. He hoped the big boss would get someone on that.
The building was dark and cold, their feet echoing in the hallways due to the metallic floors. There were a few incandescent ceiling lights that glowed, but they only brightened the way to the next room. If it wasn't for his lustrous golden eyes and the red light of a cigarette being burned, he wouldn't be able to tell that someone else was here.
"Nack, the boss told you to take your smoking outside. Hell, the rule notice is right next to you! How can you not notice that and decide you're going to smoke in the chambers?"
In clear black print, the notice said in large font DO NOT SMOKE IN THE CHAMBERS, TAKE YOUR CANCER STICK OUTSIDE. Nack kept puffing, the red light burning brightly as he streamed smoke.
"It ain't like we have any guddam furniture to ruin, do we, knuckleboy?" The voice carried a deep Southern drawl, something Knuckles swore he thought he heard in a movie starring Clint Eastwood. But he hated that voice. It seemed to seep of pure ignorant evil.
"If you don't like it big tooth, take it with the boss. I didn't make the rules, he did. Whether you like it or not, you have to take it outside. Besides, you're going to make everyone here get cancer with that thing." He hated the smell of cigarettes and wondered why anyone would even choose to reek of that stench of cyanide and beer.
"You actually believe that second-hand smoking bullshit they gave you at school? It's fucking cold out there, knuckie. And it'll be hot as a dog's shit later. Why would I be crazy enough to go outside just to smoke a guddam cigarette?"
Knuckles thought he shouldn't continue arguing with him. He had to tell their boss of their prize.
He pressed a button, speaking in a small microphone.
"Boss, Rouge managed to steal the Dreamcast from the Psychiatric Institute. She would like to see you."
He thought his voice sounded deeper and more sinister when it came out of the speaker. "Excellent, Rouge. Come into my headquarters to get what I promised you. Also, Fang, take your cancer stick outside! I don't want this building to reek of your stench!"
"But boss, it's…"
"I don't care whether it's colder than a witch's teat or, as you say, hotter than a dog's shit, you go outside and take your smoking there! That's an order!" He thought he was yelling that's an order so loud the speaker was going to explode.
"Fine," he spat, holding onto his burning cig and sliding his ID card to go out. He didn't want to bother defying his boss's orders. He didn't want to see his bad side again. He's seen it a few times and he didn't want to see it again.
Their steps resonated throughout the halls, the chill getting to both of their skins, shivering a little. He wasn't sure why the boss always turned on the air conditioning a little too high in the building, but he actually heard a theory a long time ago that people were more alert when they were cold, and if the building was warm, his workers would be tired, and nothing around here would get done. Except with Nack, nothing really got done with him. Every time he saw that one-toothed bastard he would be sitting around smoking a cigarette or conversing with another worker. Did he actually work as hard as anyone else around here? He pretty much did nothing since he joined the organization, still sitting on that one crate near the corridors, smoking his cigs. Unless the boss told him to go smoke them outside, he pretty much remained there. He wondered how Nack even thought joining this group was a good idea for him, and he also wondered if he was discretely planning anything in that thick skull of his.
He entered his boss's office along with Rouge. His room was dark, and very freezing, as if he was in a meat locker. He assumed he kept it that cold so anyone who ever went in his office would pay close attention to him. Knuckles couldn't stop shivering when he went inside.
There was only one faint light glowing near his desk. He saw a piece of parchment that seemed to have many elaborate words and drawings on it. He could catch his obscure face in the light, his glasses glinting as he drew his mark with a pencil, a dark leaded path that seemed to lead into destruction, a drawing of yet another burning building and more wreckage, to some kind of apocalyptic no-man's land.
"Hello Rouge. Knuckles." His voice was deep and brooding, and for some reason it always chilled the very both of them. He certainly had the voice of a leader: a voice that beckoned you to obey him or else…something bad was going to happen to you.
"We have the Dreamcast, sir. Like you wanted. Rouge said stealing it was no problem for her." The boss seemed to pick up Knuckles' voice shaking almost as he was shaking from the cold. His voice then lightened up.
"Very good, Rouge. I knew trusting you with the Dreamcast was a good idea. But now, a pop quiz for ol' knucklehead here: what is the reason why we need the Dreamcast? Why did I stress on Rouge to steal it from the Institute? Do any of you know why we need it?"
Knuckles was stumped. He never heard of the Dreamcast until now, and wasn't sure why his boss wanted it so bad. He wasn't even sure of why he also targeted the Psychiatric Institute so much.
"I may know, sir. I worked at the Institute for a year or two and heard about the Dreamcast from a colleague. Dr. Gerald didn't want anyone to know about it because he feared it may go into the wrong hands. And you want to use it as a weapon, is that correct?"
He seemed to cringe at the very mention of the name "Dr. Gerald". But he tried to ignore it. For now.
"Very good, Rouge. Yes, the point on why we need the Dreamcast is to create a type of warfare that the government will never be able to do at this level…a very psychotic psychological warfare, if you will. The Dreamcast is a device that can be used for someone to enter people's dreams. While its original use is to examine the patient's dreams and work through them, you can actually tweak to where dreams…become as real as me and you. And anything I can dream up, will become real, as long as I have control over the headset that allows you to enter people's dreams. And if I can control over everything that happens in this world, I will shortly become the ruler of this planet, and then I can create my new empire! One that isn't ruled by wealth and greed! One where everyone is equal and there's no poverty or the rich. Everyone will be equal, and there will be no longer any wars or…"
"Basically, you're creating a communist society," Knuckles piped up. Rouge turned to him, surprised.
"A Socialist community, Knuckles. I want the world to no longer have the wealthy and the poor and I no longer want there to be a upper-class, middle-class, poor as dirt-class or any class of any kind! And the whole planet will carry these same community ideals…"
"But you know that those don't work, right? I mean, I hate the class thing and the wealthy and all, but don't you think we need to find some other way to solve that problem? There's a reason some people are paid more for their jobs, and you know those places…"
"So you want to stay at the same kind of community we have right now, where you were starving, insane, and homeless, being a victim in the white man's game. Isn't that right, Knuckles?"
The memories of him eating nothing but shit with cigarette butts and maggots and possibly feces went back into his mind. He was right. He would rather have his idea of a society than the one he suffered in a long time ago. He didn't respond to his reply. He was quiet.
"I have an idea, sir. I actually went inside a research room in the Institute where they kept a comatose patient inside. Turns out he was in a coma for over 50 years, and his mind is still intact. He was actually dreaming for all of those years, since the year he planned on committing suicide when his friend died. Maybe we can amplify this patient's dreams to become reality here. This guy's brain has to be messed up in order to contemplate suicide, right? Maybe we can use him as a weapon to aid us. A weapon to tell anyone that if you want to mess with The EGGMEN, you can either have your society or this nightmarish world he will create. Do you think that sounds like a good plan?"
The boss took the Dreamcast from Rouge, gently lifting it in the light. It was then that Rouge saw his boss clearly for the first time: a thick mustached, round man wearing a red smooth jacket, with white stripes on the shoulders and what seemed to be buttons at the ends of them. His black pants were nearly the same, with big black boots that seemed to command attention from everyone when he walked. She couldn't stop staring at them until he boomed, "That's a great idea, Rouge! When I get this Dreamcast to work how I want it, we will command everyone to follow us or fall into a hellish nightmare! They will become my Eggmen, and my society will fall into place…Excellent, you two. When I'm done tweaking this machine to become my weapon, I will let you all know. And then we'll find this comatose patient and he will aid us as well…what's his name, Rouge?"
"Shadow," she answered.
"Yes, and I'll call this very project…Project Shadow. The world will fall to my knees, and then I can create my very own empire! And you two will see the vision we always wanted to create! Now, get back to work, and tell that big fanged fool to get back to work as well. There will be no lazing around when I'm very close to making my plan come to action!"
Rouge cleared her throat, a notion that he was "forgetting something".
"Ah yes, I almost forgot. I apologize to you, dear Rouge. I actually have something that I think you'll really like. It's one of the prettiest jewels you may have laid your eyes on."
He thought he could hear her gasp like an excited child when he pulled out a pendant that glittered in the faint light quite brightly. It was a mystic fire topaz, a mixture of deep royal purple and black and blue as a sapphire that shone like it was blazing around Rouge's neck. The gem was also large and diamond shaped. Rouge adjusted the necklace for the gem to fit snugly near her breasts.
"I love it, boss! I've never seen this gem before! Not in reality, anyways! A mystic fire…"
"Now I gave you your end of the bargain, Rouge," he ardently interrupted. "Now get back to work!"
"Yes sir!" They saluted, Rouge's gem shining brightly as she lifted her hand, then left the freezing office. The cold hallways felt a lot better to him now that he was out of that meat locker.
Rouge and Knuckles went back to the job they always did when Eggman didn't want them in his office, creating bombs and weapons. And it was a job that required a lot of concentration and focus, which was probably why Nack never did it. They hated it, but they both thought it paid more than they ever received in their lives.
As Knuckles walked back to the factory, he saw Nack again at the corridor on his crate, looking as if he was waxing his boots. He thought he saw a silver spark of light come from the heels, as if there was a knife hidden in them. But he simply ignored it. "Get back to work, Nack. Boss says we need to work harder now that his plan is coming further. No slacking off."
"Good," he said. "Maybe then I can blast his skull in."
"What?" Knuckles turned around, surprised. But he couldn't hear over the sound of the machines growling and the conveyor belts moving.
He shrugged. "Nothin', Knux. I'll work along with ya, don't worry ya little buns about that."
And Nack worked a lot harder than he ever saw when he entered the organization, looking as if he was as happy as a kid that just got his way from his mom and pop.