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Don't Look Back is a story written by Tsubasafan101. It is an entry for NaNoWriMo 2011. It lost steam at Chapter Four. But it might be revived to be a Visual Novel or a reboot because the idea/concept is interesting. At least, to the writer anyway.

Since this was a WriMo entry, the story clearly has some grammar errors and stuff. And I'm not bothering to fix them. The story stopped in the middle of chapter four.

Chapter One: BuildingEdit

Don’t Look Back

Chapter one: Building

When he opened his eyes, he noticed that everything was white. He blinked. Where was he? His mind was blurry, and so were his eyes. He sat up. When he looked down, his vision cleared. Then he noticed that he was lying in a soft white bed. He was wearing white pajamas. He looked up and scanned his surroundings. The walls were white. The wooden floor was white. There was nothing else other than white. He shook his head and repeated the question in his mind. Where was he?

And then there was another thing. He couldn’t remember anything. What was his name? It starts with P, a voice said inside his mind. Okay, but there were many names that started with a P.

He moved to the side of the bed and stood up. His knees were still wobbly, and his head was heavy.

Even though he couldn’t remember anything, he knew that he wasn’t supposed to be in this place. It didn’t feel right. He had to leave. He needed to leave. But it felt safe.

The light is safe, the voice said. But when he looked up to the ceiling, there was no light coming down. No light bulb or anything. The room was just pure white.

He moved towards a wall and leaned for a while. He looked around for a door.

There was none.

He panicked. He was trapped here, with no way out. But he knew he shouldn’t be here.

Then suddenly, there was a cracking noise. He looked up. The paint of the wall opposite of him was slowly peeling out, the white paint turning red when it dropped to the floor. He backed to the right side of the wall he was leaning, shaking. Then his vision was becoming blurry again. He shook his head furiously and looked back to the wall, ignoring the nausea by watching the horror in front of him.

A minute later, there was a lot of red on the floor, and on the wall revealed a door.

It was a metal door, chipped around the corners. The door was tinted red with rust.

There’s your way out, the voice said. You wanted this, am I wrong?

He swallowed and wiped the sweat from his face. He slowly made his way forward to the door. There was no knob or anything else that could make the door open or close. He placed a hand on the door and pushed, ignoring the sound of the rust. The door opened.

He was welcomed by a cold wind and darkness. He shivered for a while before refocusing his eyes to the dark hallway. Light flooded the corridor from the room behind him. Unlike his room, the hallway didn’t feel safe. It was dark and he felt naked, unprotected.

But he needed to be away from this place. His mind was still unclear, blurry. Then it dawned to him.

His mind was blank. He couldn’t remember who he was, and where he came from and what else.

He looked left and right. He was in a hallway, alright. The darkness was tinted green, so it wasn’t pitch black, much to his relief.

He wasn’t scared of the dark, but he knew that this was a different darkness. He could feel something lurking among it.

He made his first step to the white tile floor. It was cold. Then his light-headedness cleared. The headache was gone, and yet he couldn’t remember anything. But for some reason he felt calm. He didn’t like it. He shouldn’t feel calm right now. But still…

He placed a hand on his heart. There was no faint beating. He pressed his hand to his chest. Maybe the beating was just faint he couldn’t feel it. But he didn’t feel anything.

He closed his eyes for a moment and held his breath. There was no beating.

Maybe he was dead? Maybe this could explain everything that had just happened?

But where was God to judge him? Was he already in hell? Maybe this was the afterlife? He didn’t want to think about it. Maybe this was all just a dream, or he was just hallucinating, confused.

He walked to the right side of the hallway, leaving the safety of his bright room. His feet slapped on the tiles of the floor, echoing. His hand was still on his chest, hoping he could at least hear the pounding his heart. He was scared, but he couldn’t feel scared. It didn’t make any sense. But so was the current situation he was in.

The hallway was quiet except for his steps, with no other doors, no benches, no tables. There wasn’t anything else. There would be the occasional green fluorescent lights. There would also be fire exit signs, but no door.

But the scary thing was that there was no one else in the hallway. He didn’t meet anyone. He was all alone in this place. But he couldn’t shake the feeling he was being watched.

At the end of the hallway, there was stairway leading down. He squinted to the darkness. He could see a faint light somewhere in a distance. Maybe another person was here? He didn’t let his hopes up. He was tempted to go back to his white room, back to its safety and to its warm bed.

He climbed down, carefully so he wouldn’t slip. The cold wind was stronger here. The exit, he guessed. He was more than happy to get out of this building, wherever he was. He wanted out. Away from the darkness.

He felt something brush against his ankle. He jumped and looked down. He caught a shadow of a hand on the floor, rising to touch his back.

Don’t, the voice echoed. Don’t you dare look.

He could feel himself shaking. He was starting to get covered with sweat. His pace quickened and later he found himself running. He landed on the floor and continued to run. The cold wind was becoming stronger, and he followed the direction of where it came from. He had to get out of here. This place didn’t feel right. He needed to get out. I want out. I want out. I want out.

He stopped on the dark lobby of the building. He placed his hands on his knees and took a deep breath. The wind had stopped, but this was it. This was where it came from. He looked up and looked around.

In front of him was the exit. Two large glass doors, closed, the empty road just outside, illuminated by the streetlamps, the light coming to the lobby. On his right was the help desk, the space occupied by large piles of papers. There was nothing else in the room. But he felt safe because of the light coming from the outside. The Darkness won’t touch me, he thought. For now…

There was shuffling of papers on the desk. He snapped his head around to look. The shuffling stopped. He wanted to back away, but the darkness was behind him. He wanted to get out to the streets, but he found himself walking to the desk slowly.

He reached a shaking hand to one of the papers. But he couldn’t read it in the darkness. He found himself flipping around the papers, searching for something he didn’t know. His body was moving on its own.

He took out a paper and pocketed it. He didn’t know why it was important, but he just knew it was.

When he looked back to the whole lobby, he almost screamed.

Red paint was drawn on the glass doors, forming words.



PEN GET OUT GET OUT PEN OUT

NOT A SAFE PLACE

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

THEY ARE HERE PEN HERE OF ALL PLACES

FIND THE LIGHT

THE LIGHT

LIGHT

OUTSIDE DO NOT GO OUTSIDE

DARKNESS IS DANGEROUS THEY LIVE THERE

STAY HERE



The words just appeared out of nowhere, written in red ink.

He couldn’t stay here. This place didn’t feel right. He wasn’t supposed to be here. He kept telling that to himself.

Despite his mind protesting to back away, he moved towards the door. This was, after all, the only exit of this building, and he needed to leave.

He averted his eyes away from the glass doors, and pushed. He felt the familiar cold breeze that led him here. The wind felt safe just like the light. But unlike the light, the cold breeze felt more welcoming.

He made his first step to the pavement. He stretched his arms and breathed the outside air. He felt safe. For now.

But there was something else.

When he closed the door behind him, he suddenly felt empty. Alone.

He stood below a streetlight and clutched his heart again. Still, there was no beating.

He wiped the sweat of his forehead using the sleeves of his white shirt. His body was shaking, but his heart was silence.

Questions started racing around his mind. Who am I? Where was he? Who were “they”?

He looked back the door and stared at the message.

Pen…who’s that? Is that even a name? Was that his name? Then he had a weird name.

But still…he held on to the word. Whoever wrote that was writing to him, speaking to him.

He looked around his surroundings. There were no other buildings other than the one he just came from. It was nighttime. The road was illuminated with bright streetlights and it led to two ways: left and right. The rest of the area…was covered with trees and forests and darkness.

“Darkness is dangerous. They live there.”

Who are they? He thought. But he didn’t feel like figuring it out. He wanted to be somewhere safe. He wanted to go home, to his family. But where was home? Where was his family?

He glanced to his right, and he started walking. He couldn’t see anything at a distance, but, for some reason, he knew that there was something over there, very far away.

He looked back to see the building that he came from. It was white, tall and dull. But there was a menacing atmosphere around it.

Then he remembered the paper he brought with him. He took it out from his pocket and read it.

But he couldn’t.

He squinted and tried to make out the words, but the handwriting was indescribable. Then he noticed that the paper was yellowing from age, and it felt crisp and fragile. The ink was fading too. But in the topmost of the paper, he could make out something.

St. Matthews Children’s Hospital for the Mentally Ill

Chapter Two: DarknessEdit

Chapter two: Darkness

Pen was tired. He was walking and walking and walking for how long? A couple of hours? Days? He wanted to sit down and take a rest for a while, but something kept telling him that he shouldn’t stop.

Someone is watching me, Pen thought. I have to keep myself alert.

He walked along the empty road, feeling like a hitchhiker. There were no cars passing by. There were no other buildings around him Just trees and streetlights and darkness when there was no light.

Pen looked up. It was nighttime, alright. But there were no stars in the sky. They were not there to comfort him, tell him that he was alright and that he was being watched by a friend.

Pen continued his trek to the endless road. He was doing his best to stay away from the darkness, and keep himself to the light. He still clutched the paper with him. He couldn’t read, but maybe when his mind had cleared, he could. Pen hoped.

It felt like hours when he finally caught something far at a distance.

A silhouette of a city.



***

The city, like any other places Pen had come, was deserted.

The silence was eerie, and there were no people. Cars were parked on the streets, but there were no signs of human life. Or simply life.

Pen kept moving. The lights helping him see the way. The urban neighborhood was packed with tall office buildings, and parks and big townhouses, but when Pen looked up to see any signs of life within them, like a light in one of the rooms of the office or in homes, there was none.

Pen never felt so alone in this place. And yet…he knew he wasn’t entirely alone.

This is all just a dream. All just a dream. I’ll wake up soon. I’ll just play along.

But if this were a dream, then he should just wake himself. Find a tall building and then jump and then Pen would be awake and then he would think this was all a bad dream about deserted cities and mental hospitals and darkness.

There was something that held him back, though. Part of Pen knew this wasn’t a dream. He was just too scared to admit it.

I don’t want to be alone.

But someone was watching him. Maybe…maybe he could help Pen.

He wouldn’t be long into the darkness. Pen was just curious. But he was curious about many things, especially right now, when his mind was still foggy, and devoid of memories.

Pen was still walking along the streetlights, feeling safe and comfortable with the white light protecting him from above. But now he would have to leave his safe light for a moment to take a peak into the darkness. At least, he knew now that he was not alone.

Slowly, he made his way towards a dark playground. Pen could see the swing, the slide, the monkey bars, everything you see from a small place where children could play and be monkeys.

He stepped inside the playground. Suddenly, Pen was shaking. His head felt heavy again. The darkness wasn’t comfortable. And yet…

Wind picked up and blew around the playground, making the place in motion, with the swings creaking, and the see-saw going up and down, up and down. Then Pen could hear laughter. Children’s laughter. Shrill and cold and mocking, echoing around his ears.

Then he felt the darkness closing into him, taking away his breathing. He could feel something wrapping around his legs. Long, and hairy and dark. Pen closed his eyes, and started to back away, but couldn’t move his legs.

Get out, Pen said to himself. Move!

The laughter was growing louder, stronger, mocking. Then suddenly, he had a vision.

A bright sunny afternoon

Children surrounding him, pointing at him.

Laughing.

Taunting.

Accusing.

Stop. Make it stop!

A pair of hands grabbed Pen’s shoulders and started to shake him. The hands were hot and Pen didn’t like the feeling of it.

Go back to sleep, Pen. Sleep. Because THEY ARE HERE.

No!

Pen tumbled backwards, back into the safe light. The hands had shied away, back to the darkness. Pen scrambled behind him and placed himself in the middle of the road.

He placed his head on his knees and wept. He didn’t care how old he was, or how embarrassing he would look like in this state. But Pen wanted to let out the frustration that had been keeping awake for many days.

The city wasn’t safe. Pen would have to find somewhere where he could rest. He was tired and hungry. He wished there would be someone who could guide him. He wanted company.

The darkness wasn’t a good company. It was an enemy. The darkness wanted to eat Pen. Pen decided that light was his good company, his new friend. For now. Until he could find someone who would explain everything to him.

I hope this is all just a dream, he wished. If it is, then I want to die.

Chapter Three: SoapEdit

Chapter three: Soap



Pen arrived into a subdivision of the city; there were townhouses, of course. But the lights inside the houses were not on. The silence was starting to frighten him now. And there were still no signs of life.

He sat down on the sidewalk for a while. He looked down to his sore and dirty feet. He should have stopped by to a shoe shop and get a pair. Besides, there was no one around to see him. Pen stretched out his arms before standing up and continuing his trek. He turned left, and then left again, and then right…

He glanced around the houses for light. Anything bright. He couldn’t stay at the road forever.

Pen took out the paper from his pocket and tried, for the eleventh time, to decipher the writing. He could read them, alright, but it didn’t make any sense to him. The words were jumbled.

From the corner of his eye, Pen caught something. He snapped his head up to look. In one of the houses on his right, there was light on one room, according to a window. Pen blinked. A shadow passed. Someone is in there!

Pen dashed towards the house. He noticed that one streetlight was illuminating the entrance of the house, which was a red door. He reached for the doorknob and pushed open the door.

Darkness.

Pen stepped back for a moment and took a deep breath. He was going to be quick. He remembered the window came somewhere from the left side of the house. He’ll just look through the hallways of the house, find a door and see if there were rooms that have light.

But maybe I won’t find anything there, he thought. Maybe this is just a trap so that the darkness will get to me.

But Pen couldn’t think of any other options. He prayed that there was at least one person in this world that could help him, or at least be with him.

Pen slowly moved towards the dark hallway. He placed a hand on the left wall and closed his eyes. He slowly walked, feeling any door in the way.

The floor was polished wooden, he could feel it, and the walls were smooth.

The cold wind was there again, comforting him, though he didn’t know why.

Then the whispering, but Pen tried to ignore it. He kept his focus on finding the light in the darkness, even though his eyes were squinted shut.

Pen went deeper to the house, not yet feeling a door or a gap or another rooting hallway.

He panicked.

The whispers were getting louder now, and Pen couldn’t ignore it for long.

He felt something crawl on the floor, slipping around his ankles. He didn’t dare open his eyes to take a glance. He had to find the door. Even if he wouldn’t find anyone there, the light in this house was still safe.

Someone grabbed his hand and started pulling him deeper. Pen tried to shake the hands, wriggling from its grip.

The hands were starting to pull him towards the darkness. Pen refused to open his eyes. He didn’t want to have those visions again. And the heat that

Go away! He thought. I don’t want to come with you anymore!

“No! It’s okay!” a voice said.

Pen shook his head. No, it’s not okay. Someone wants to get me!

Then he realized that the voice didn’t come from his mind.

The hand pulled him further down the hallway. “You can’t stay in the darkness for long!”

A voice?

A real voice?

A girl.

Someone!

Pen opened his eyes for a moment. Then he started to regret it.

He could see a silhouette of a girl, alright…but there was someone beside her.

A dark shadow.

With red eyes.

“Close your eyes!” The girl said. “Don’t let it get to you!”

Pen did what he was told to do. The girl gripped his hands and led him somewhere around the house. He heard her open a door, and they stepped inside.

The girl lets go of the hand and told Pen to open his eyes now.

When he did, it took a moment for his eyes to adjust the bright light. They were in a bright room. The living room.

Except there were a few differences.

Clothes were scattered around the room. Plates and vases were smashed on the floor. Red puddle—blood, Pen guessed—was harmlessly swimming around the wooden board, almost slipping Pen.

But what caught Pen’s attention were the words painted on the room’s only window.



DO NOT LOOK

YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE

THE LIGHT IS SAFE

Someone will come to get you

STAY HERE

The girl stepped up in front of him. Pen blinked and looked at her. For many days, he longed for human life; it would be a sight to behold. But now, after a long time, the presence of the girl was like alien to him.

They both stared at each for a while.

Then she did the expected.

She burst into tears and ran to hug Pen. “Thank god, I’m not alone!” she exclaimed, hugging him more tightly.

And for the first time since he woke up, Pen spoke. “Uh, yeah…”

He patted the girl’s back awkwardly. Then she let go and wiped her tears with a handkerchief she brought out from her pocket.

Pen expected her to shoot bullets of questions to him, since she probably had stayed here and didn’t bother to go out and explore. But instead, Pen received one odd question from her.

“Please, give a moment. I know this sounds really, really out-of-place but…what do I look like?”

“Uhh…what?”

The girl motioned to her body.

“Oh! But…can’t you just look into a mirror?”

The girl’s face darkened. “I can’t. There are no mirrors here in the room. And I can’t look at myself at the windows. There’s…darkness beyond it.”

Pen grimly nodded. He decided to take on the girl’s request on describing her.

He didn’t know how old he was, but he and the girl were at the same height, so he assumed that they have the same age. She had long wavy blonde hair, and her eyes were green. She was wearing white pajamas just like Pen.

Pen told the girl about what he thinks. She nodded and thanked him.

“Are you…alone here?” Pen started. She nodded again.

“What’s your name?”

The girl didn’t answer. “I…don’t know.”

She placed a hand on her chest and took a deep breath.

“You can’t feel it?”

“Feel what?”

“Your heart.”

She stared at Pen, and then sighed. “I think I’m dead.”

“Same.” Pen looked down to the ground for a moment, and picked up a spoon. He twisted it around his fingers for a while, and then threw it on air and catches it again on his palm. He saw his face on the spoon: small and deformed. Pen placed it back to the floor and looked at the girl again, who was staring at the window, reading the message again.

Pen wanted to ask many questions to the girl, but he couldn’t decide which one to ask. Most of them were the obvious ones: where were they? Were they really dead? But Pen knew better. This girl was just like him, so why bother ask questions you knew that there were no answers yet?

But there were other questions. The girl knew about the darkness and its danger. What was beyond it? What would happen if they lurked for too long in the darkness? Would they wake up, and then learn that all of this was just a dream, a nightmare they couldn’t shake up? Or maybe it might offer a different explanation to this situation. Either way, Pen didn’t like the choices, so he decided to study about this world before jumping into the next.

Now, Pen knew that he wasn’t completely alone in this place, and that there’s a possibility that there were other people scattered as well.

But…were they really people? What if the girl in front of him was associated with the darkness, just pretending to look like a human and then eat Pen at the right moment, when his guard was down?

But Pen knew he had no choice. He would need a lot of help. He now had a plan, a purpose. No more aimless wandering. No more wistful thinking. He needed to act. He had to figure out what this world contains, and how to survive it. A way out. Pen needed to find a way out, back to the normal world, if there was one.

“Why are you staying here?” Pen asked.

The girl shook her head. “I’m afraid to go outside. The darkness is trying to take me, and give me visions. Horrible visions.”

“You have to come with me.”

“Outside?”

“You can’t stay here forever.”

The girl looked down to her bare feet. “I know.”

“We should both watch our backs, so we wouldn’t be…err…”

“Strangled by Darkness.”

“Yeah…something similar to that.”

She stared at the message one more time before approaching Pen. “Okay, I’ll go.”

Pen smiled for the first time. “Cool.”

He held out a hand to her. “Call me Pen.”

The girl stared at her, almost taken back by the greeting and probably the name as well.

“I…don’t remember anything when I woke up. It’s a long story, really. I’m sure you have a long story too, right?”

She faintly smiled and shook Pen’s hand. “Yeah. Same as well.” She paused. “Call me Soap.”

“Soap?”

“That’s the closest hint to my real name, anyway.” Soap’s right eye twitched. “Sorry if it bothers you.”

“Well, not really.” Pen was glad that he had company now. Now that he was able to speak again, he felt comfortable at the least. It might take a while to explain to Soap about his plan to discover more things about this weird world and the darkness, scout for other lost people like them, and maybe find a solution to go back to their families, their real home, not in this dark place.

It was going to be a long night for Pen. But then again…it’s always night time in this place. No sun. No day.

Chapter Four: OceanEdit

Chapter four: Ocean



Soap didn’t know much about the darkness, but she knew enough to know that it was a dangerous place. She told Pen about her side of the story, her experience in this world. There was no electricity to turn on lights or anything else. There were some points around the city where there were lights, so Pen and Soap decided to take refuge for a while in them before going on their way.

Pen explained his story about him waking up in a mental hospital. And then he explained about the possibilities of “waking up” from this world. A way out. Soap looked hopeful in his plan, but she pointed out a few things.

“The darkness is practically the only one that rules this domain,” she said. “And you’re saying that they’re the only way out?”

Pen hesitated. “Not…no. I’m not sure. But I’m too…not curious enough to check out the darkness. But there has to be another way.”

He told her the possibilities of others being in this world.

“But the place is too big!”

“I know…but we have to try.”

Soap looked up the dark skies. Pen wondered if daytime even existed in this world, because it felt like he and Soap were here for more than a week now, and there were no hints of the sun coming out to greet them, light to save them.

“Hey,” Soap started. Pen looked at her. “What is it?”

She smiled. “Nothing. I’m just glad I’m not alone. I don’t like the feeling of being alone, and that someone bad is watching in the shadows. It could drive anyone insane.”

Pen nodded.

The cold breeze swept their feet as they walked into the farmlands, at the outskirts of the city. Both of them couldn’t drive a car, and they doubt that the car would even work.

A few days later, they arrived into another city, this time much smaller. They stopped into a lighted street to rest. Their feet were sore and full of bruises now, and they both smelled like sweat. They wanted to burst into a building and find the nearest shower, but they wouldn’t even dare.

The more they stayed in one place, the more empowering the darkness became. Sometimes, they would hear whispering, and then occasionally visions.

They didn’t find any other lighted room or building since Soap’s house.

“I miss my mom and my dad,” she sniffed.

Pen gave her a pat in the back. “Me too,” he said. He held his heart for a moment to check a pulse. None. He sighed. Pen was expecting it, of course. The past few days, they felt like they were the walking dead. Soap even made a joke about it that plants would start attacking them if they would get near gardens or house lawns.

“Do you remember anything at all, Pen?”

Pen shook his head. “No. All I could store in my mind are the visions. And I don’t even know what they meant. But they felt so real.”

“Maybe those are your memories.”

Pen throat became dry. “Perhaps.”

But even Soap looked uneasy. “But…they’re so horrible. If those visions we get are memories…did those really happen to us?”

“I don’t want to think about it.” Pen didn’t like to think about anything else other than getting away from this place.

Even if the visions were real, this world felt unreal.

Exploring seemed meaningless. The world was an endless flat land that could through miles and miles, with cities and farmlands and mountains and hills. They even wondered if there was an ocean or see or a small pond or any body of waters in this place.

Until they found a dead fish on the sidewalk.

It was their 11th farmland visit when they first caught sight of it.

Pen ran to it and bent down to examine the fish. It was small, but it was a tuna. Now, some people would say that seeing a fish isn’t an extraordinary sight, but this was different. When Pen stood up, he noticed a trail of tuna leading somewhere. Fortunately, it didn’t lead to the darkness. Unfortunately, Pen didn’t know where it leads.

“Let’s follow it,” he said to Soap.

Soap didn’t look like she approves. “I don’t know, Pen. What if something happens to us while following it? Something bad?”

Pen kicked the dirt of the road. “Do we have anything else to do other than wander aimlessly, looking for people?”

“You found me.”

“Maybe it’s just the two of us. But…”

Pen looked down. “Seeing this tuna trail makes me think otherwise. Let’s go check.”



***

They followed the trail of tuna until it stopped at a sandy place. Pen’s eyebrow furrowed and looked up. Soap followed and gasped.

They were at a beach, complete with shells on the sand and a sea and coconut trees and anything and everything tropical. And, to their shock, at the dark horizon was a moon rising from the tips of the sea. It was the most beautiful and majestic body Pen had ever seen. He stared in wonder for a moment. He didn’t notice that his knees gave away and tears were starting to flow from his eyes.

Light…it was the first natural light Pen had seen. It was cold but welcoming and comfortable, like the wind. He didn’t know if he felt so protected ever in his life.

“Pen! Snap out it!” Soap pressed on. Pen snapped his head up and shook his head furiously. He quickly wiped his tears away with his already damp shirt. “Sorry. I…was out.”

Soap closed his eyes and sighed. “I know…she’s beautiful isn’t it?”

Pen nodded and stood up. “Yeah…and I thought I won’t be able to see anything else in the sky. Thank you, tuna.”

Soap blinked and then started to laugh out loud. Pen smiled and then laughed along with her. It was one of those rare times when they would laugh, joke, and simply relax.

“But Pen,” Soap said. She pointed to the sea. “Look.”

Pen followed the direction she was pointing and then suddenly stood upright.

The waters were actually glowing blue. He first assumed that it was just the moon’s light making an illusion, but he noticed that the whole body of the sea was actually glowing.

“It’s light,” Pen said. “I think it’s safe.”

Soap stared at him, incredulously. “What are you thinking, go down there?”

“Yeah.”

“Something might happen to you!”

“Thanks for the concern.” Pen took a deep breath and ran towards the water. He was already waist deep into the sea when Soap started calling him again.

“Don’t worry!” he said. “I’ll be back.”

Pen held his breath and dived down to the water. He then moved deeper to the depths.

He noticed how empty the sea was. There were no fishes, no corals at the bottom. There wasn’t anything at all. It reminded of Pen of outdoor swimming pools. This was only very wide and vast and it didn’t seem to have any end to it.

Pen was about to go back to the surface when someone caught his feet. He looked down to see nothing. But he felt a tugging sensation. He was starting to panic.

Some invincible hand was pulling him down. Pen tried to kick what was below him. He moved his hands upward to resurface, but he was still being pulled down. He couldn’t hold his breath any longer.

I’m going to die here, he thought, still struggling to go back to the surface. But then he thought otherwise. What if he died? What would happen to him? Stay dead? Then what about her?

Something flashed in his mind.

He was on a raft, staring at the wide blue skies. Pen was lying on his back, his body numb. He was hearing voices. They were distant and blurry. But they were calling a name. His name. But…he couldn’t hear them.

He couldn’t move to look at the blurry images that surrounded him, reaching out to him.

Pen couldn’t breathe. Someone was gripping his neck, cutting the breath out of him.

Pen reached out, but he couldn’t grasp anything. Thin air. He looked at the figures besides him, trying to voice out help. They couldn’t hear him.

Suddenly, Pen was jerked back to reality. He was still in the empty sea, drowning. But the tugging sensation by his feet was gone now. And the sea wasn’t empty anymore.

There was something else.

He was surrounded.

Bubbles of shapes floated everywhere. Shapes of men, women, and even large fishes like dolphins and whales and sharks. They were floating around him, watching Pen.

Pen couldn’t do anything else other than stare at them. He couldn’t breathe. His vision was giving away. He was going down, pulled by the invincible hands wrapped around his ankles.

The shapes started moving downwards. One approached Pen. It was a woman. Even though he couldn’t see her properly, Pen could tell she was still pretty. The tugging sensation was gone, but he was slowly slipping away from reality. And then he realized the tugging sensation was gone. He suddenly felt light. And he could breathe.

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