Judai's brown eyes slowly opened and quickly closed again. He was finally awake, but as usual, he didn't want to get up right away. He didn't want to drag himself out of bed and all the way to class like he did every single day. He wanted to stay in bed and keep sleeping for as long as he could, or at least until he was fully rested. He didn't exactly like the idea of spending forever in bed though. There were things he wanted to do after all. Regardless, the strange smell in the room rendered him unable to focus on his extra sleep. He opened his eyes again and looked up at the ceiling.
No, that wasn't right. Judai slept on the bottom bunk. He should be seeing the underside of the top bunk. More than that though, he should be in bed. Seeing the ceiling made him realize his head wasn't even resting on a pillow. There wasn't a blanket on him either, nor was he in his room at all. He was laying on a floor, looking up at a ceiling he didn't recognize.
Judai wondered for a moment if he was getting pranked. Did some of his friends manage to carefully get him out of bed and place him somewhere else as a practical joke? He grew curious about whether he would actually be capable of sleeping through something like that or not. He didn't consider himself to be a light sleeper, so maybe it was possible.
Either way, Judai had to get up and figure out where he was. He rolled over and got to his hands and knees to push himself up to his feet. Judai let out a yawn and stretched his arms up. After rubbing his eyes, he looked around at his surroundings. Something was off. He didn't recognize where he was. Sure, he was certain he hadn't seen every room in the school or even on the island, but he felt like the place didn't fit in at all. It almost felt like he was in an office building. An empty office building. The walls were a plain pale yellow while the carpet was sort of like a mustard yellow. Everything looked too yellow. There were fluorescent lights in the ceiling and Judai could hear a faint buzzing sound coming from them. He also noticed a couple stains on the walls, ceiling, and floor. It almost felt like he was in the hallway rather than a proper office. There were door frames leading elsewhere, but no actual doors. It dawned on Judai that it was a bit tough to breath. The air was thick and musty. Clearly there was no air circulation in the building.
"Sho?" Judai curiously called out.
He couldn't imagine he was left alone if it really was a prank. His friends had to be watching him from somewhere, right? They didn't really leave him alone to find his own way out. That seemed a little too far, even if it might have been Manjoume's idea. Judai was pretty brave though, so he could make it out on his own perfectly fine. He'd just have to tell his friends that it wasn't a very funny prank to pull on him. Judai picked a direction, the right, and began walking down the hall. Wherever the exit was, he assumed the building wasn't like a maze with dead ends, so he could just keep walking until he found it.
While walking, he wondered where he was to begin with. Unless he was in some kind of secret location on the island, Judai didn't think he was actually at the academy anymore. An empty office building just didn't make sense. Sure, there was a lab on the island, but there were reasons for that. Reasons he didn't really agree with, but it served a purpose nonetheless. An office building didn't seem to have any purpose he could think of though. The only offices Judai knew about were Headmaster Samejima's office, the teachers' offices, and at least one meeting room. There couldn't be a reason for the island to have an empty drab office building on it.
A humming sound started to bother Judai to the point that it took him out of his thoughts. Perhaps he was focusing too much on the sound coming from the lights. Otherwise it was completely silent in the office minus his soft footsteps, so it was easy for the humming to get stuck in his head. Along with the humming, the light behind him started flickering. Judai stopped in his tracks and could see a bit of the area around himself get dim every time the light flickered. It made an annoying sound too. He turned around to see the light flicker right in front of him. It flickered on and off and on and off and on and off and then didn't come back on. Judai stared at it with a hint of confusion and curiosity before pursing his lips. Something about the light going out just… unsettled him. He worried for a moment that it was a sign the power would go out.
Judai gripped at his arms for a few seconds before he realized he was wearing his Osiris Red jacket. Looking down at his own body, he had to feel a tad disappointed in himself for not noticing he wasn't in his pajamas. He was fully dressed with socks and shoes and everything. But he knew he didn't go to bed like that. Did his friends dress him? Putting aside the embarrassment at that thought, Judai had to stop suspending his disbelief. There was no way his friends could get him out of bed, change all his clothes, and take him who knows how far away from the dorms all while he was sleeping. He just didn't believe it was possible. It couldn't be.
And then an idea came to Judai. He was dreaming. It was all just a dream. That was why him being in an empty office building fully dressed didn't make sense. It wasn't supposed to. Dreams were just weird like that and Judai being so aware of himself was because it was one of those lucid dreams. So shouldn't he be able to control things? He thought about being back at his dorm room, lying in bed, and enjoying the comfort of his pillow. He tried to imagine the softness of his blanket too, but nothing was happening. He wasn't back in his room and he wasn't waking up. Maybe he needed to do one of those tests where he hurt himself to snap himself out of it. He pushed up his sleeve a bit and pinched his skin.
"Ouch!" Judai whined.
He winced, but again, nothing happened. He rubbed his skin to make the pain go away quicker and pushed his sleeve back down. If it was a dream, then why wasn't he waking up? How could he be stuck? Did he just not focus enough? He'd never been stuck in a dream before so he wasn't sure how he was supposed to think in order to free himself from it. What if Judai was stuck in a nightmare then? Perhaps that was something he couldn't wake up from on his own.
The light that went out suddenly burst and shattered glass onto the floor. Judai yelped and covered his face with an arm. It was a nightmare. Definitely a nightmare. He gripped at his arms again and backed up a few feet before turning around. He quickly tried to walk away. He needed to find the exit. He needed to get out. He needed to wake up.
"A-Asuka!? Manjoume! M-Misawa…?" Judai called out.
Believing he was no longer awake, he doubted he would actually see any of his friends. Still, it brought him some level of comfort to call out for them. Even just thinking about them helped. He wanted to see everyone again. He didn't want to be stuck in the weirdest nightmare he's ever had. He only hoped if there was nothing he could do on his end then someone would eventually wake him up.
Continuing on through the halls, it felt like things were getting less linear. Before, the hallway just went straight and made a turn every once in a while. Now, it didn't look very coherent. There were too many paths Judai could take and it almost looked like there were several unnecessary walls. Judai walked ahead a bit where there was a short wall. He was able to go around it to reveal another hallway. He paused and stared down the hallway. It kept going down and had a right and a left turn. That wasn't right. The hallway jutted out of the wall. He walked along the wall where the left hallway turned down. There was no way an entirely separate hallway could be there. It should only have a right turn and nothing else.
Judai walked down the hall to where the paths branched and stopped. It was definitely a real hallway, but he still couldn't believe it. It just wasn't possible. He turned around and quickly made his way to the end of the hall. He rounded the corner and stopped in his tracks before he could collide with the wall. Judai looked around and furrowed his brow.
"B-but… But there was… right?" Judai muttered to himself.
He came from that hall. He travelled all throughout it before he turned the corner. He was walking for a while so it couldn't be possible that there was nothing there. He couldn't have gotten turned around either, could he? Or did he forget where he came from? Maybe he did get turned around. Maybe he lost track of where he was. There was no other explanation… unless the hallway changed when he wasn't looking. Judai pressed a hand against the wall, needing to know it was real. He believed he was in a nightmare, so things really could change on him at the drop of a dime. Anything was possible so he couldn't be certain what was real or not.
The thought unsettled him.
Judai removed his hand from the wall and turned around, walking back to the intersection. He would never get out if all he did was question things. He had to just keep going and not look back. Looking down the left, middle, and right halls, Judai chose to take the right hall since it was the only one that reasonably should be there. Things down the right all seemed just as distorted as they did a bit earlier. Too many turns that didn't need to be there and many door frames to walk through. Nothing seemed to be like a room anymore, it was just lots of hallways mashed together too closely. Looking around as he walked, Judai noticed one door frame that seemed upside down. He could vault over it to get through, but he felt like the distortion alone was enough to make him choose another path.
Taking a left, Judai mainly listened to his own footsteps in order to drown out the humming from the lights. His steps were rather soft thanks to the carpet. It was simply one light thump after the other. And then two light thumps, then one, then three, then two again. Judai stood still and realized there was a second pair of footsteps. His eyes widened a bit and he looked around, not seeing anyone.
"Hello!?" He called out.
The footsteps continued and Judai felt like they were in front of him. He ran down the hall for a while and looked down all the turns he passed.
"Hey!! Sho!? Asuka!? Manjoume!? Misawa!?" Judai shouted.
There was someone and he needed to get their attention. He had to find them. He stopped running and tried to listen to where the footsteps were. They were to the left now.
"Can you hear me!?" Judai questioned.
Still no response.
The footsteps changed location and it sounded like they were above him. He looked up as the lights started flickering. As the footsteps continued, another pair sounded like it was walking around him. Judai frantically looked around. It felt like people were walking all around him and passing by as if he was in a crowded city. The footsteps grew in number and the lights flickered on and off even quicker. There was getting to be too much. He couldn't see anyone and the flickering started to make him dizzy as he looked in every direction. Judai gripped at his brown hair. He couldn't take it anymore. It was too much noise. It was too loud. It was all around him and he couldn't make it stop. He dropped down to his knees and shook his head.
"Go away! Go away, go away, go away!!" Judai yelled.
All the footsteps immediately stopped and the lights stayed on. One pair of footsteps remained though, and they slowly walked up behind Judai. He started shaking as they got closer to him. One step and then another, and then another, and then another. It felt like someone was right behind him, about to touch him. Judai let out a scream and the lights shattered. Everything stopped as the sound of glass breaking and hitting the floor echoed in Judai's ears. He could only hear the sound of his own heavy breathing as he tried to calm down. He didn't know how long he sat there, but he did know he took as long as he needed. With one final big sigh, Judai relaxed and looked up.
It was dark. He couldn't see much and eventually everything far away enough was just pitch black darkness. Even though the humming stopped, Judai wasn't sure if things were better or worse without light. He just wanted to wake up. He didn't want to deal with things being so dark. He wanted to be able to get up and turn the lights on. He wanted to open the window and get some fresh air. He didn't want to keep breathing the stuffy air that was in the office building. He just wanted to be free and feel safe.
Standing up, Judai decided he needed to keep going, even if he really didn't want to. He didn't have a fear of the dark, but whatever was going on made him scared of it. Everything seemed to change when he wasn't looking, so a restriction to his vision meant things could be changing right in front of him and he wouldn't even know it. He glanced down at himself and noticed he couldn't fully make out his feet. Seeing anything would be nearly impossible now. He gently side stepped until he was against the wall and pressed his hand against it. As he took small steps forward, he kept his hand on the wall so he could have some way to tell where he was going.
Judai felt his hand slip and gasped before realizing he was next to a door frame. Not knowing where else to go, he turned into the room and kept his hand on the wall as he continued on. Judai could tell his eyes were beginning to adjust to the darkness. He could see just a bit more, but it didn't really help too much. He looked out to see if he could spot any other paths he could go down. It almost looked like something in the darkness moved out of the corner of his eye. He quickly turned his head, but there didn't seem to be anything. Something else moved again, and Judai jolted his head in the opposite direction. Was there something in the shadows? Was he not alone? He couldn't hear anything but himself and he was too afraid to call out in case it wasn't harmless. He didn't feel like he could move any longer, he just wanted out. He wanted someone to come get him so he didn't have to do it by himself anymore.
He wanted help.
The lights all suddenly turned back on and, while it startled Judai, he was relieved nonetheless to be able to see again. Until he noticed something in the room with him. Standing in the middle of the room and facing away from him, was Judai himself. Well, he assumed. It definitely looked like the back of him. The fluffy brown hair, the red jacket, a perfect look-a-like as far as he could see. That didn't make it any better though. He was the only Judai, there shouldn't be another one. Meaning the one facing away from him was fake. Some kind of illusion or clone, or something that wasn't entirely real. That only unnerved him further. The fake Judai slowly started to turn his head around and the real Judai felt himself fully back up against the wall. He didn't have anywhere to go. They both were lined up perfectly in the middle of the room. If Judai tried to leave in either direction, it was possible for the fake to easily grab him.
Just before Judai could get a glimpse of the other one's face, the lights shut off again and he felt his heart stop. At the same exact moment, Judai began to hear dozens of voices whispering at him. It sounded like they were right in front of his face and next to him, but he couldn't make out anything they were saying. It was just incoherent mumbling. Judai shoved his hands over his ears and squeezed his eyes shut, but the whispering just grew louder as if it was inside his head. He couldn't think. He could only hear the whispering. Judai felt himself hunch his shoulders and hang his head. It had to stop, and it had to stop now.
"Shut up!!" Judai desperately yelled.
The whispers abruptly stopped and Judai took the opportunity to bolt to where he saw the other door frame while the lights were on earlier. He made his way out into the other hallway and turned to face the wall. He pressed his head against the wall with his arms crossed over his head and sighed. He was done. He couldn't be here anymore. He wanted to wake up. He wanted this nightmare to be over. Judai felt tears well up in his eyes as he mentally begged for an escape. He couldn't brave through it any longer. He needed someone, anyone, to be with him and either help him out or just keep him company. He didn't want to be alone with his own thoughts. He wanted to see another person and be told that everything would be okay, whether it was true or not.
Judai felt what seemed like a hand touch his shoulder. He let out a short scream and whirled around to find no one there. He bumped his back against the wall and slid down to the floor, the tears finally falling from his eyes.
"Leave me alone! Leave me alone!! Please, I-I wanna g-go hoooomee!!" Judai cried.
He pulled his knees to his chest and put his head down as he let out choked sobs. It was still a nightmare, right? As much as he begged and screamed and cried, he would still wake up, right? He would see everyone again. He would get to hear Sho call him Aniki. He would get to see that smug grin on Manjoume's face. He would get another chance to duel Asuka. He would get bored over listening to another one of Misawa's mathematical ramblings. He would get that all again. He'd be back at the academy again and see all the students walking around. He'd get to duel again and sleep in class and stay in bed late and laugh with his friends.
Or was he really stuck here? Was it never actually a nightmare? If it was all real, then if he couldn't find a way out, he really wouldn't ever be going back home. As strange as his current situation was, it all felt so real. Judai had never felt so wake during any other dream or nightmare before. So it had to be real then. It was all real. Everything he saw, heard, and felt, it was real.
But that had to mean if he was in a real place, he had to get there somehow. There had to be an entrance, or an exit, or just some way to get out. But he was already looking the best he could. As he walked around he didn't see a single door. The halls just seemed to keep going on forever. There was no way the building could be as big as it felt. Then again nothing made sense. The halls seemed to shift and change around him. The lights kept going on and off. He was seeing himself where he was sure there was no mirror. And not to mention all the voices. Things like that couldn't be real.
Was he losing his mind then? Was it all made up? Did he inhale some kind of psychedelic fumes without knowing it? There was no way to get an answer as far as he knew. Judai didn't even want any answers. He didn't care about that anymore. He just wanted to get out and go home. He was too scared and he could barely keep himself together anymore. He might not have been together at all actually. He was shaking and crying and terrified out of his mind. He didn't know if anything that was messing with him could actually physically hurt him or not. Either way he didn't want to find out. He just had to focus on leaving. If he even could.
Judai let out a long sigh and tried to hold back his final sobs. He needed to get up and look for a way out. He couldn't give up and just sit around forever. Calming down best he could, Judai started to lift his head up a bit. As he looked up he came face to face with a vaguely humanoid shadow right in front of him. Once it registered to him, he screamed and squeezed his eyes shut. He tried to kick it away, but his foot never came into contact with anything. Panting, Judai opened his eyes, but he only grew confused when he didn't see anything there. Was he so freaked out that he was starting to see things? Or was there really something there and it disappeared before he could kick it?
It didn't really matter. Whatever it was scared him, but it was gone now. It was just a shame he managed to calm down only to get startled again. Judai was shaking and had his hands shoved into his thick hair. If it was real then how long had it been right in front of him before he finally noticed? Did he come seconds away from getting attacked? Again, it didn't matter. It was gone, Judai was still unharmed, and he needed to keep going.
Standing up, Judai almost fell over and had to lean against the wall. He was so shaky that he could barely stand on his own two feet properly. He was a bit dizzy and his breathing was ragged. He felt like he was so close to passing out and the thick air surrounding him didn't help that. His crying might have caused a light headache as well. Overall he was just a complete wreck. He needed to pull himself back together before he fell apart completely.
Judai felt something almost like a hand slowly reach itself around his ankle. He flinched and in the chaos of his reaction he stumbled over his own feet and hit the ground with a thud. He let out loud cries and kicked his legs to make sure whatever it was wasn't touching him anymore.
"Leave me alone… L-leave me… leave me a-... alone…" Judai cried out into the dirty carpet.
He wanted things to stop touching him. He wanted to at least have a break for a few minutes if nothing else. He wanted a chance to not break down into a million little pieces. He was just asking for that. That's all he wanted anymore.
Whatever grabbed him earlier snaked around his ankle again and jerked Judai back a bit. The brunet yelped and desperately scrambled to grasp at the floor. He had to get away. It had him and he needed to break free. There was another tug and Judai screamed through his crying. He was pulled around the corner, but he managed to grab ahold of the wall and keep himself there. It tugged on his leg again and he whined.
Desperate to escape, Judai used his free leg to kick at whatever had him. He wasn't hitting anything, but he could still feel the grip around his other ankle. His whines grew louder as he could feel it reaching higher. Gripping his leg and then his thigh and then something else touching his waist. He wasn't sure what his own sounds were anymore. They were just a mix of crying and incoherent calls for help. It felt like several hands came up and touched him even higher. They were wrapping around his neck and tugging at his hair. They pulled on his arms and he shut his eyes as he could feel them sliding over his face.
Judai tried as hard as he could to kick his legs again. He was trying to get his footing on the floor in order to stand up, but it was almost like he was being pinned down. He could feel the hands on top of his own and it was like they were gently trying to pull off his grip from the wall. Whatever it was wanted to pull him back into the darkness, but he had to break away. He had to get out of its grip and run.
Finally he fought back hard enough to get a foothold on the floor. For just a moment he let go of the wall and used his hands to push himself up off the ground and to his feet. The hands were still all over him but their grip obviously wasn't very strong once he got up. They released Judai as he bolted for his life. He tripped and stumbled as he ran down the hall but he managed to keep himself up. Despite how dizzy he was he couldn't feel it much as he ran. It was so dark that he couldn't see anything in front of him, but regardless of it all Judai just kept running. He couldn't stop. If he stopped something else could get him. He couldn't risk that. He had to run and never stop and never look back.
Before Judai could even realize it, he eventually slammed his entire body into a wall at the end of the hallway. He let out a whine as he fell back onto the ground. He was too exhausted to make any other stronger noise. He got to his feet the best he could as he rubbed his head and pressed his hands against the wall.
"Hey!! Lemme through! Open… open up! P-please! I- I know you can move! Just… just lemme through!! Please…" Judai called out while beating on the wall.
He leaned his forehead against it and lightly kicked it before stopping to breath. He wasn't sure how long he ran, but he knew he couldn't go anymore now that he stopped. His whole body was screaming at him to calm down but he just couldn't. He punched the wall and sighed.
"Let me… go…" Judai muttered before the tears started falling again.
Reluctantly, Judai glanced over his shoulder to check behind him and he froze at the sight. There was another wall. It was impossible. Judai ran down the hall for so long. He knew he came from there and nowhere else. There was no way it didn't appear after he reached the end. Judai ran up to it and smacked against it with a bit of force. He desperately beat on it, getting fed up with his situation.
"Lemme out, ya hear!! Get me the hell outta here right now!" Judai yelled.
He banged his fist on the wall over and over again until his hand felt numb, but he still continued to hit it. Bang after bang after bang after bang over and over and over again. Judai's body was screaming for him to stop but he was too angry. With one last punched against the wall, the light overhead switched on. Judai froze and just barely turned his head to get a look behind himself.
Facing the wall behind him was the other Judai from earlier. The fake was motionless and simply stood there as still as a board. Judai didn't feel scared so much as he felt pissed. He wanted to start punching things despite the pain he felt all over his body. And the fake would make a perfect target.
"I'm sick and tired of all of this! You're gonna let me outta here one way or another!" Judai shouted at it.
As Judai swung his fist the light flickered on and off in quick succession and each time it turned on the light revealed that the fake was turning around more and more. Just as Judai could almost see its face and his fist could connect with it, the moment the light came back on, it was gone. Judai's fist smacked right into the wall behind it and the light shut off for good.
Judai let out a blood curdling scream and punched the wall one more time. Finally getting it all out, Judai panted as he dropped down to his knees. There was nothing left he could do. He just simply had nothing left. It was all out of his system and he was left with nothing.
Hands rested on Judai's shoulders and despite the disgusting feeling that loomed over him from the contact, he didn't move. He didn't even fight as one hand crept down to wrap around his waist while the other moved up to slide over his forehead and pushed his head back a bit as it moved into his hair. He could feel there was a sleeve below the hand on his head, and judging by the feel of the material, it was an academy jacket. A head suddenly leaned on his shoulder and from the way the hair rubbing against his neck felt, he was sure it was his own hair. The fake Judai was the one grabbing ahold of him.
The real Judai simply moved a hand up to press against the fake one's cheek. It was almost a tender touch, like Judai gave up and was just embracing the fake now. It pulled him back a bit and closer into its grasp. Its grip on his hair tightened until it started to hurt Judai's head. He winced as its other hand squeezed its fingers into his side. It was all painful, but Judai didn't care anymore. He was done. He couldn't take anything else. He just wanted everything to be over.
"Please…" Judai begged in a quiet voice.
The fake complied, and then it all came to an end.