Dreamer

Prologue

“A visitor... How unexpected.”

Lorri walked through the tunnels quietly, barely able to see past the tears falling from her face. The ten-year-old girl roamed the dark tunnels for what seemed like hours, her little white dress dirty from mud and grime from the walls of the tunnels.

She looked around as best she could to try and stop herself from crying so she could see when she came across two choices of tunnels. Forward or right, and that is when she heard it. She heard what sounded like a cough that echoed through the tunnels.

"Hello?” she called, rubbing her burning eyes before squinting but she heard and saw nothing ahead of either tunnel. She called out once more but still gained nothing in response. She looked between the two tunnels once again before deciding to go straight ahead.

She slowly walked, stepping towards the tunnel that was slightly more elevated than where she was coming from. The tunnels looked the same from what she could see, but there was light at least. There were light fixtures although not all of them worked. Some were dim, others had no light, and every now and again she would run into one that worked perfectly fine.

She continued on until she saw someone up ahead.

She paused, looking at the silhouette of someone who was hanging, but it was too hard to tell. If it wasn’t for the fact they were slightly shifting side to side, one would wonder if they were dead.

She hesitantly continued, noting more tunnels as she approached: one behind the figure and another two on either side of him — a four way tunnel with her coming from the fourth.

She jumped down once she got to the end of the tunnel, looking at the silhouette with unease. Chains were coiled around his waist, one end locked into the links, as the other was locked into something on the ceiling.

There was enough light coming from all four tunnels to see he was chained up. However, she couldn’t get any more details unless she moved closer.

“A visitor... How unexpected,” it said, the voice sounding male, rough, and inhuman.

Lorri felt herself get goosebumps and took a step back, but didn't feel the need to retreat further.

“Don't be afraid... I can't hurt you even if I felt like it,” he chuckled slightly.

“How do I get home?... I'm lost.” She sniffled, looking at the silhouette, and noted that his hair was long on one side when it moved its head.

“Get me down and we both can go home.”

She looked rather confused then. How was she supposed to get him down when she didn't have anything that could bring him down? She looked around, however, noting nothing noteworthy was in the room. Perhaps she could find something down one of the three tunnels.

She looked between the three and decided to go down the tunnel to her left, but before she could step through she heard him say, “Nuh uhh uhhh...” She turned and looked at him, puzzled.

“I wouldn't go down that path little one... There is something quite unpleasant in that path. I heard screaming,” he chuckled.

She paused, looking to the tunnel as if expecting to see something there, but nothing came into view. No sound as well, and it worried her more than it should, but something told her she should go down the path.

She shifted closer and climbed into the tunnel, as even the tunnel entrance and exit was higher than the rooms they connected to.

She cautiously walked through, taking quiet steps to get to the other side and hope whatever was down there wasn't going to come down this tunnel. Hopefully, gone already if she was lucky.

“What a brave child you are... or foolish,” she heard him say before she was too far to hear him.

When she was halfway through, she caught the scent of what made her think of iron or at least something metallic. She wasn't used to that smell and it was only getting stronger as she kept on going to near. It was overwhelming when she reached the end with the scent of something rotten that made her cover her nose and stifle a cough.

Lorri had nowhere to hide unfortunately when she got to the end. Whatever was there had the advantage if it was still here. The only source of light were the other two connecting tunnels besides the one she was approaching from.

The room itself was unfortunately pitch black, but she could see six flashlights on the ground, all pointing in random directions as if they were just thrown in and left where they landed. One was facing the ceiling but the rest were facing walls and the center of the room, illuminating a nightmarish scene.

The room was full of blood that was splattered all over the walls and part of the ceiling and gore was scattered all over the room. Chunks of flesh and broken bones were all over but most heavily in the center, as if a group of people were surrounded and torn to pieces.

Lorri did her best not to make a sound or gag at the sight and smell of it all. She quietly stepped down onto the ground and approached the bloody mess to grab one of the flashlights, but her foot hit something hard. She used all her willpower to not make a sound as she moved to her bare foot and rubbed it.

She had forgotten she wasn't wearing shoes. She didn't like shoes very much but now she wished she had them. She listened to see if there was any movement, but things were still eerily silent and the only thing she could hear was the beating of her own heart.

She stealthily moved, this time much slower in case there was something she couldn't see that she could kick again. A few times she felt herself step on something that made a squelching noise, but she did her best not to think about what it. She felt like she was going to be sick as is.

After a moment, she finally reached the flashlight and picked it up, as it was one of those larger flashlights. It was black and heavy and she looked behind her, wondering what it was she had kicked that was so solid.

To her surprise, it was a gun, although she didn't know it was a Colt M4 carbine, but recalled seeing it once or twice on TV. She learned how to shoot a gun when she was younger before her father passed but it was a hand gun and she barely remembered that much.

She walked back towards it, picking it up, and noticed it had a strap. She picked it up and draped it over her shoulder. It was heavy but she hoped it had bullets she could use to shoot the chains off the guy in the other room.

She hesitated for a moment but decided against her better judgment to see what was on the ground.

She looked around with the light but only after she climbed back up to the tunnel she came from, using the flashlight like a spotlight.

The sight was as bad as she thought if not more so, but she knew what it was for sure however. She had a feeling it was people, and it was. They were all human except a few that seemed human enough, but she couldn’t tell what they really were and she truly did not even want to know.

She turned, doing her best not to feel so sick but she was lucky she had nothing to throw up to begin with if she needed to. She jumped and turned back to one of the other tunnels. She heard what sounded like the screech of a rusted metal door opening.

She looked about franticly but nothing showed. However, she knew something had to be there. She turned once again and moved down the tunnel back to the one that was chained, a bit less stealthily but enough to still be quiet. Whatever was in there was either full, not interested in her, or it never spotted her. Either way, she had no reason to stick around.

Lorri jumped down into the other room from the tunnel, looking at the silhouette figure, and turned off the flashlight and set it down on the ground.

“You have returned unscathed. How convenient.” He spoke with a smile in his voice.

“I didn’t see what was in there…” she said softly, moving the gun around and looking at in search for the safety, which wasn’t on.

“That’s good… It must not have been as scary as I thought it would be for you then.”

The child didn’t say anything. She was terrified but she had to act tough for her own sake. If she wasn’t brave then she would likely be in these tunnels forever and may suffer an even worse fate if there was one. She lifted the gun, looking up at the one hanging.

“I think I can shoot the chain off,” she said softly.

“Go for it. Just try not to shoot me,” he advised.

She adjusted the heavy gun, and propped it on her shoulder, pointing it at the torso where the chain, was aiming for the center mass. She wasn’t a sharp shooter and she never would be, so hitting the chain that dangled above him was unlikely. She pulled the trigger, the recoil knocking her off balance, and fell to the ground.

The sound echoed very loudly through the tunnels as the bullet hit one of the chain links and ricocheted, but it did the damage it needed. The link broke and loosened the man. The silhouetted figure shifted and moved until the chains loosened enough to move his arms until the chains had fallen off.

“Thank you, child.”

He moved towards her, walking to the girl and into the light that was coming from the tunnel behind her, revealing what looked like a human and a monster.

Half his body looked like a decaying corpse, holes and parts of his flesh with an exposed ribcage on the right side. His lips were gone on the same side, revealing his teeth with a bit of holes in parts of his gums. The red eye was wide and looking glossy despite having no eyelids to maintain the moisture. His scalp exposed with no hair except a few small patches and what looked like a hole that was patched with metal wires to seal it.

In contrast, the right side looked very human and very handsome. His hair was long, straight, and black that reached past his tail bone. It cascaded perfectly down his ghostly pale skin and athletic form with a devilish smirk on his face.

He reached his non-monstrous hand towards her to help her up. “Let me take you home as promised,” he purred.

Lorri hesitated, looking at his hand and back up to him before reaching her hand towards his, letting him pull her up to a stand and guide her down the tunnel that was behind him. His hand was surprisingly warm despite being so poorly dressed and being partly a rotting corpse.

He had no shirt or shoes and his nails were black, possibly from rotting on his macabre side and looked normal on the left. All he had were torn up black pants that looked like they had gone through hell and back and were in need of washing, though he himself had no scent.

She looked up at him a bit fearfully after some distance; his hair hid his face well from the left. She was unsure if it would be rude to ask but knew if she did not, she would never know. “What are you?”

He chuckled, jumping down to the room at the end of the tunnel and taking the right, as if he had roamed these tunnels before. He had a confidence about him guiding her like he’d done this a million times.

“I am your guide at the moment, child. What I am is hardly important. We have a bad reputation after all.”

“We do?” She seemed puzzled by that as he lifted her up to the next tunnel that was too high for her to reach, even if she jumped.

“Monsters. If you were a monster you would make a poor one.” He chuckled, climbing up after he set her in front of him in the tunnel and took her hand once more.

“… You can’t be a monster. You’re too nice. If you were, you would take me apart and eat me,” she argued, looking ahead towards the tunnel again and would have paused if he hadn’t been holding her hand. Usually, the tunnels cut off at rooms and would have an option of different tunnels but this time there were two tunnels splitting off to the left and right.

“What an imagination you have, child.” He chuckled and kept going past the two tunnels that had showed themselves. Looking into the one on the left for a moment, she thought she had seen a shadow move but she couldn’t be sure.

“… It’s true.” She pouted some, looking back up to him.

“Maybe in some cases, but not all. You have much to learn about life, you are much too young to understand things aren’t so black and white.” He moved into the next room that had a ladder that cut off farther than she could reach but he would have no problem doing so as the first rung was eye level. The ladder itself led to another tunnel but it was such a long ladder she wondered why someone would make it so tall.

“This is your exit, child,” he informed, looking down at her with an amused grin.

“My name is Lorrianna… but you can call me Lorri,” she informed, not wanting to be called "child" again.

“If that is what you wish, Lorri. I am Jericho. You can call me Jer,” he mocked but she didn’t catch it. He moved down to his knees and kissed her forehead, giving her a strange feeling, but ignored it as he picked her up and held her high enough to grab the fifth rung of the ladder so she could place her foot on the bottom one. “Be on your way now.”

She looked down at him, concerned and gave him a confused and scared look. “Are you not going to come with me?”

He appeared puzzled at first, but grinned once more. “Why would I? I promised to take you home and up the ladder and through that tunnel lies the exit that will take you home.”

“Don’t you want to go home?” There is no way he lived here. She had no reason to think that.

“Your home and mine are very different, but no doubt yours is much more… comfortable and calmer than mine.” He spoke with a bit of thought when finding the word he was looking for.

“Why don’t you live with me then?” She couldn’t say why she asked him this but he helped her find her way home. She would have been here forever without him and didn’t want to leave him here. It just didn’t feel right. Her mom would have offered to help him too, wouldn’t she?

“Is that an invitation?” He seemed further amused than he already was.

“Yes, you can be my big brother.” She gave an assured smile; she always wanted a sibling. She asked her parents for one but they always laughed at that and made fun of her for it.

“How amusing you are, Lorri.” He smirked at her. “I have a few things to do first but until then you can go ahead of me and I’ll meet you there. How about that?” he suggested.

“I’m not that stupid.” She pouted, looking at him rather upset that he would give her such an obvious lie. “You don’t know where I live, and there is no way you can find me either if I went home without you.” She shifted, looking down as if to test the distance between her and the ground to jump down.

“Calm down, calm down.” He chuckled, seeming to give a genuine smile this time, and patted her on the back before she could jump down. “Here then. Take this.”

He lifted his menacing hand towards her and a small red orb formed that was the size of a gobstopper.

Lorri looked at it puzzled and let one of her hands release the ladder and took it. She looked at it quizzically before she sniffed it. The scent of it was similar to iron but sweet, like a cherry. “… What is this?”

“Eat it, and I will find you no matter what. I can promise you that and it won’t be a lie.”

“It smells a little weird…” she informed, looking at it questionably.

“Trust your big brother,” he advised before stepping away from her. “Eat it and go home. I’ll catch up with you soon enough.” He smiled almost kindly.

She looked at him for a moment as if unsure but nodded, putting the red sphere into her mouth as it tasted like cherries, like the smell, with a bit of that metallic taste, but the sweet cherry took over and hid the metallic flavor after a moment.

“Okay…” she resigned, sounding a bit disappointed but looked up towards the ladder as she felt it would be a long climb, but at least she could see the end. She hadn’t noticed the room was also much taller than all the other rooms until now. “See you at home…” she said, climbing up the ladder.

“See you at home.” He chuckled while she climbed the ladder.

Lorri didn’t like heights very much but she wasn’t afraid of them. The ladder wasn’t too difficult to climb. However, it seemed to be meant for people of most sizes to use as each rung wasn’t spaced out too far from one another.

When she reached the top of the ladder she was panting, a bit tired as it left her a little sore to climb. It wasn’t something she was used to. Climbing up trees weren’t her specialty either but the ladder should have been much easier right?

She sighed, leaning against the wall for a moment of the tunnel and looked down, noticing that Jericho was gone. She stared down for a moment, as it was a long way down, while she simultaneously wondered where he had gone. He was a little weird, and half ugly, but it didn’t put her off. She had classmates that had acid poured on them and they were disfigured and so she wondered if he got into some accident to look like that.

She hoped he would be alright and find his way back soon. She oddly missed him already. Then again she was lonely before she even met him.

She waited a long moment before turning back to the tunnel and walking down the path he had told her to go. The tunnel didn’t seem much different than the rest, just cleaner and all the light fixtures worked.

When she got to the end of the tunnel, she found a door and there was a bright light behind it that shined towards her from within the slit under the door. She hesitated for only a short moment, however, as she knew she would be able to get out of the dark tunnels if she stepped through but she was still worried.

She approached the door, turning the doorknob and opened it. The bright light blinded and consumed her. She shielded her eyes with her arms as she felt the warmth of the light surround her before regaining consciousness.

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Dreamer