I sighed and opened my eyes.
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I found myself on a crowded sidewalk, people passing on either side of me, going every which way. Skyscrapers soared above me seemingly penetrating the dark blue sky. I noticed something off about the crowd. Every man and woman was an exact copy of one another, except for minor differences. They all wore the same sort of outfit; the women wore matching business blouses and skirts, while the men wore matching suits and ties.
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They paid me no attention, bumping into my sides gently and continuing on their path as if nothing had happened.
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I looked ahead, hoping to see something different in the sea of business professionals, but I found nothing more than what I saw in front of me.
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The crowd began to split in front of me, creating a pathway in the empty space, a sort of Moses splitting the Red Sea moment. My eyes followed the gap and found, at the end, someone I recognized: a person different from all the other business drones around me.
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Hannah stood there at the end of the gap. Her stance was powerful, her legs spread slightly to hold her ground. Her hands were clenched tightly into fists; she looked as if we were ready to strike.
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My gaze ran down her arms and my mouth opened in awe as I saw nothing but blank slates. Her arms were bare of the dark ink, the hateful markings, insults, and curses she stained them with every day to remind her of what she thought she was.
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Her clear complexion, unstained by the word "Nothing," overwhelmed me with numinous pleasure. I could see her freckles and the pale hue of her skin seemed to glow. She was beautiful without the words that she wrote staining the way she forever saw herself in the mirror.
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Her stare met mine and our eyes locked. She blinked.
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Find me, She mouthed as she started to turn around, still keeping her eyes locked with mine.
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As her gaze broke away from mine, the sea of drones crashed into the gap, running into me and knocking me off balance and to my knee. I got back to my feet and saw that Hannah was nowhere in sight. The gap had closed and the business drones were rushing past me and hitting me at an accelerated pace.
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A scream pierced the air, causing everything and everyone to halt in their place. A strong wind picked up and as the wind hit the business drones, they began to disintegrate into dust. I watched as they turned into sand and ash that danced above the sidewalk. The wind immediately stalled, letting the particles settle and leaving me completely alone with a sidewalk completely covered by what used to be the humans that used to be as far as the eye could see.
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"HELP ME!" A woman's voice rang out from the street just ahead of me.
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My heart jolted and I ran down to the turn, stepping in the piles of sand and ash that barely slowed me down.
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I turned the corner and lost rational control of my body.
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Three business drones were on top of Hannah. She screamed at the top of her lungs in protest as they stabbed at her repeatedly with what looked like black permanent markers. One of the drones had a syringe looking object that was filled with a black liquid, which he was forcing into her skin.
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"GET OFF OF HER!!" The words erupted from my mouth as I charged at the drones. They took no notice as I tackled one of them off of Hannah. I pushed myself to my knees and readied myself to punch, but the man was gone.
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A pile of ash was now under me and I punched at nothing. I looked back at Hannah and the two other drones torturing her with ink. Hannah's screams had quieted to groans and whimpers. I got to my feet again and quickly shoved the drones off of her; the drones fell to the ground and fell to dust as they hit the road.
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I quickly got to Hannah's side and my heart sank. Every inch of her arms were covered in bold letters of the word "Nothing." She began to convulse violently and I scrambled to hold down her arms. The ink squished under my grasp, causing me to immediately pull back in surprise. I looked to my hands; The black ink began to drip down my wrists, starting to stain them like with my palms.
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Her head snapped up to look at me and I felt my stomach drop. Instead of the word "Nothing," the words "KILL ME" were slashed into her face multiple times. Her eyes were completely black and as she stared into my eyes, she let out an ear-splitting screech. I panicked and instinctively covered her mouth with my hand.
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As I pressed down gently, her skin started to melt into blood that spilled off of her head and onto the road. I gasped and immediately drew my hand back, but it was no use. Her head dissolved into blood and the cascade traveled down her body, turning her clothes and hair into blood as well as the rest of her body. It took only a few seconds for there to be a puddle of blood where my friend was just lying.
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I scrambled to my feet, the sound of my name ripping my attention away from the puddle that was once Hannah.
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I looked down the road to see another familiar face. Shawn motioned for me to come over to him as he turned a corner into a side alley off of the street. I took a deep breath, then started to jog after him.
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Shawn remained still, looking the other way as I ran up to him and put my hands on my knees to catch my breath.
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"Shawn... what are you..." my heavied breath trailed off. "Shawn?"
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Shawn took no notice of me, staring off into the distance at perceivably nothing. His posture was relaxed, causing him to slouch when he never does. He let out a long shaky breath and I looked down to his hands.
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They were trembling terribly.
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He sprinted off further into the darkness of the alley at an inhuman speed.
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Somehow hearing his name this time made him stop in his tracks. I started to run to him, but something made me stop as I got closer.
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Erik was with him, circling him with four clones of himself also there leaning against the walls on either side of him.
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I kept to the shadow as I got even closer, staying out of sight. Erik started to laugh.
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"Shawn, you know you're pathetic right?" He flashed Shawn his pearly grin, showing his sharpened canines. "You are the most pathetic out of our little group! You think you're so tough, with your clever comments turned rageful words, but you," he started to snicker. "You are a soft stick of skin that needs to go fall in a pit and die,"
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"Screw you," Shawn's voice was calm but it had a quiver in it.
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Erik let out another laugh. "Me? You would never; the hate you have for me is too strong!"
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Erik got really close to Shawn's face, his mouth by his ear as if to whisper something.
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"Hit me!" he proclaimed loudly and directly into Shawn's ear. Shawn's hands formed fists, shaking drastically.
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Erik snickered and put his mouth right up to the ear.
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Erik paused for a moment.
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You know you want to.
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He mouthed the words and they somehow rang through the air.
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He let out an inhuman roar and pounced onto the Erik closest to him.
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The Erik dissolved into dust and Shawn fell to the concrete. He scrambled to his feet and ran for one of the others and threw a punch. As his fist hit skin, the form fell to nothing.
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The final three started to circle him and laugh. Shawn let out another roar and punched at one, then a second, both becoming nothing after.
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The last Erik stuck out its tongue and turned around to shake his butt at Shawn. Shawn charged at him, ramming into him at full speed, but as I expected, Erik fell to dust and Shawn ran into the wall head-on.
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He bounced back and started to look frantically around. His face was dripping with blood, but I couldn't get a good look from his panicked actions.
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"WHERE ARE YOU?!" Shawn bellowed at the top of his lungs. I ran out of my hiding spot, trying to get his attention.
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His head snapped in my direction. We were only a few yards apart but the damage was clear.
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His large scar had opened up and ripped through his right cheek, connecting to his mouth and to the top of his ear. His nose looked misshapen, broken by the wall with blood dripping from it. His right eye above the opening in his cheek was completely black, like that of Hannah's when I found her.
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The left side of his face was undamaged, other than scuffs of dirt on his cheek. The street lamp giving this area it's only light illuminated the streams of tears coming from his normal left eye.
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He opened his mouth slightly, tearing open the remaining flesh that kept his mouth and his cheek opening separate things. He let out a shaky sigh, sputtering blood out onto his chin.
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In one motion, Shawn's arms flung out to the sides and his body exploded into red, gaseous, comet-like orbs and began to orbit the place where he stood at blurring speed. The red blur that it created started to rise.
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It stopped for a split second and I felt my heart drop and hit my stomach.
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The blur immediately dropped and hit the ground, generating a huge shockwave. The shockwave hit me with enough force to send me into the air and I hit a wall behind me.
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The force quickly dissipated and I was released from the wall. I hit the ground arms first, but something that caught me off guard made me immediately open my eyes, which had instinctively shut as hard as they could when I went flying.
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I did not feel rubbly concrete.
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I could feel grass.
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I pushed myself up slightly and looked to the ground. Vivid green grass had been crushed under my weight. I quickly got to my feet and looked behind me. The wall that I was just held to was gone, along with the alleyway I was just in. I let out a long breath, taking in my surroundings.
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All I could see was slightly overgrown grass and cloudless sky. I was in the middle of a field with no one around and no way to get home.
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I sighed and put my head in my hands and just held it there.
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"Well, isn't this just-"
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"Hi Matthew!" I raised my head to the high pitched voice I heard behind me. I turned around.
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Emily stood behind me, looking up to see my eyes. Her pink sundress was unstained as usual with her perfectly kept curls. Her makeup gave her an extra bit of innocence that could bring a smile to anyone's face. And smile was exactly what I did.
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"H-hey Emily!" I tried to match her chipper attitude, to no avail. She didn't mind.
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She skipped around to the front of me.
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"So what are you doing around here?" She sat crossed legged in front of me.
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"I don't know, to be honest, I was just in a city, with Hannah and Shawn-"
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"Oh! How are they?!" Glee enveloped her face as she asked about her two friends. I let myself sink down to my knees in front of her.
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I didn't know what to tell her. I didn't know what to tell myself! Were they dead? Are they just somewhere else now? And what was with the clones of Erik? Is Erik dead too?
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"...They're, umm... They're not there anymore."
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Emily's smile dropped.
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"Oh," but it immediately returned. "They'll come back!"
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"What makes you so sure of that?"
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Emily's mind was on other things now; she began to braid long pieces of grass together.
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"So what are you doing here?" I felt the need to ask.
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She looked up from her project and smiled.
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"Erik wanted to meet me here! I don't know why though, he never really does things with me but, I don't know, he's been actually pretty nice to me lately!"
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I felt my brow furrow. "Really?"
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Emily let out a giggle. "Yeah! I know he can be mean sometimes and let his anger out on others,"
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I let out a single chuckle through closed lips. Letting out his anger on others is a major understatement. He murders anyone who looks at him the wrong way!
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"But he's just misunderstood, I think! Besides, he even gives me hugs! He can't be that bad," She looked back up to me from her grass and gave a sweet smile. Her eyes twinkled as the sunlight hit them, making her sea blue irises look even more like an ocean.
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She let out another giggle. "Anyway, what do you think of this place?" She motioned around behind her. "Isn't it beautiful? I love the fact that sun almost seems to-!"
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Suddenly Erik appeared out of thin air and thrusted his knife into Emily's back, breaking through her bones to leave blood staining her dress on the other side. Her breathing hitched and tears began their making way down her face.
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Erik knelt down beside her and started to stroke her hair.
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"Sorry babe, this needs to be done," he grinned and planted a small peck on her cheek before removing his knife from her back.
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"...Help...me..." Emily managed to choke. Erik let a smirk form on his face and with a snicker, he pushed her over and she fell into the grass, causing her whole body to shatter into a million pieces.
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"Erik, what the freak?!" I scrambled to my feet just as Erik grabbed my shoulder and started dragging me with him as he walked.
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"Got no time John, you're already late," Erik continued pulling me until I broke out of his iron grip.
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"Erik!" He turned around and gave me bratty look. I sighed.
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"First off, I told you not to call me that! I prefer Matthew, you know that!
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Erik dramatically rolled his eyes.
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"Second, what are you doing? You just killed Emily! What am I late for?!"
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"John, John, John, shoosh please!" Erik grabbed my shoulders and looked me in the eyes. "Don't worry your pretty little head! You'll be waking up soon, so it won't even-,"
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"What?! Waking up-?!"
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Erik shushed me immediately, placing his finger on my mouth.
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"Don't freak out John, it'll cause you more acne. Now I want you to take my knife,"
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I looked to him confused, "What?"
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Erik groaned and rolled his eyes again. "Just do it, John! Help me! Please!"
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"Okay, fine!" I took hold of the knife handle. Erik grabbed it as well, securing my hand to the handle.
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"Good. See you soon buddy!"
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Erik quickly turned his back to the blade and rammed the knife into his back at full force with my hand still holding on, unable to let go. Erik let out an ecstasy filled sigh as the world was plunged into white and everything fell silent.
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My eyes opened and I gasped in as much air as I could, only to cough it all back out.
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"Oh gosh, oh gosh, I'm sorry Matthew! I didn't mean to startle you!
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I wiped my eyes and reached for the glasses on my nightstand.
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I felt the familiar plastic and grabbed hold.
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The person with me giggled as I put on my glasses. My eyes widened.
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It was Emily.
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"You were dreaming, silly! Did it feel that real to you?"
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