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Home Before Dark

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Ojiro can admit it. He's lost. His only reprieve was that it wasn't yet nighttime, the Plagues were confined to the night. They couldn't survive during the day, even if it was somewhat dark in the forest. Right? Ojiro tripped over a fallen tree branch. He swore. It was just his luck that a forest spanned between his school and his home. Well, he didn't need to go through a forest to head home, but he figured it would be a much faster route than the path through town.

“Well maybe not,” he said, as he realized he had just walked in yet a another circle upon seeing the branch he tripped over earlier. He shouldered his backpack and sighed.
“Don't go through the forest no matter what,” his mother had said. She was right of course. He was just in a rush to get home, he wanted to finish his homework in time to spend time with his brother before dinner. He almost never got to hang out alone with his sibling nowadays.

'A lot of good the rushing did me, huh?' He thinks as he passes the branch yet again. 'How long have I been in this forest,' he wonders. He thought he left with plenty of daylight left, but it seemed darker than it was just moments ago. He was either heading deeper into the woods, or it was far closer to sunset than was safe.

Ojiro wonders if he should just head back, wherever back was. If he was going to be caught alone at night, he'd rather it be near civilization and not in these aggravating woods wherein no human would find him again. Had anyone even seen him enter the woods? Had he told anyone? Does anyone, anyone at all, know he's lost in this disorienting forest? Has it gotten darker?

He hears someone breathing quickly. Is that him? When did he sit down? He looks around frantically. Surely, with his back to this tree he can see a way out. That's it. Maybe he can climb a tree, maybe he'll be able to see his a way out. His breathing slows down little by little. He clambers to his feet and examines the trees around him. The trees are large enough that he would be able to see far at the top of one but small enough that he might be able to reach their lowest branch if he tried. He does try.
It's just his luck that he's just too short to reach the lowest branch, no matter how hard he tries. Well, he doesn't want to be away from it, but he supposes there's no one around to steal it.

He places his book bag on the ground and uses the satchel as a makeshift stepping stool. It gets him just high enough that when he jumps, he reaches the tree branch and pulls himself up. He rests as much as he can on the branch and takes a few breaths, then he's climbing again. Inch by inch and foot by foot, he leaps, and grapples, and drags himself to the top of the tree. Just a bit more, and he can see. He eventually stops his upward climb, and he can finally see the forest spread beneath him.

He nearly goes lax with relief as he sees lights in the distance. And he doesn't allow himself to think about how it's dark enough that lights can be used. He feels silly in doing so, but in his relief he whispers thanks to the he's on and looks down. And immediately regrets it. 'What goes up must come down,' he reasons, but he contemplates his surroundings. Surely he's close enough to the tree in front of him that he could just- with a leap of faith, and maybe a bit of desperation he vaults onto the next tree and climbs around and jumps to the next and the next and the next and. Then there's a gap, just large enough that he can't find his way to the next tree from above. He notes that he's considerably closer to the lights up ahead. He can even make out the buildings of his hometown. Even if the sun is beginning its descent, he finds himself feeling hopeful.

He looks down again and swallows the lump in his throat. He resolves to make the climb down. His descent was managed only by his the combination of strength and balance he used in his martial arts practice.

He was dismayed to find that, by the time he reached the ground, it was dark enough that he was losing sight of what was around him. Knowledge that he was so close, less than a kilometer from town kept him going. He wished he still had his backpack, he was sure he had stowed a flashlight in it. As close as he was to his home, to the end of the forest, he didn't trust himself not to get lost again. Still, he sighed and headed in the direction he remembered the lights being in. But stopped when he we saw a figure in the corner of his eye.

“Hello, Monkey.”

Ojiro whirled to face the sound of the voice. In the fading light he saw pale skin, wild purple hair, and pearly fangs adorned by a lazy smirk. Fangs. Wait, no, the sun wasn't completely down yet, it couldn't be nighttime yet, could it? He was so close. But no, the plague was already here. Ojiro swallowed back his defeat. At the very least he could take of death with as much dignity as he could. He just hoped that this creature wasn't one of the more cruel ones. But the nickname the stranger gave him didn't give him much hope that he would get out of this without being toyed with.

“Are you lost?” the vampire asked. It's smile widened, which was almost worse than the smirk. Ojiro didn't see the point in answering, nor did he think he could. He found that he was near paralyzed, he could feel himself trembling. Is this what it was like to see a Nightmare, to be near the plague of night? So much for dying with dignity.

“Of course,” the Nightmare continued, amusement evident in its voice, “you don't deign it worthy to talk to me? Wait a minute, don't tell me you're afraid of the dark, now.”

When only silence followed, the creature walked closer, observing Ojiro intensely. “You're pretty strong,” it mused. “I suppose we could work on your fear. Then again, how you feel doesn't need to matter, but it's less work for me if you can move of your own volition.”

Ojiro was slowly released from his terror. He had to think, he had to get out of this. What did he have a his disposal? He didn't have his backpack, or anything in it, and doesn't remember having anything in his pocket. Well, weapons are out. What does he know about the vampire? It hasn't killed him yet. That means it more than likely will try toying with him. It mentioned his strength, maybe it wants to fight him? Maybe it wants- No, don't think about it. For whatever reason, he's still alive, so it probably won't kill him right away- he hopes. Suddenly he was being touched, the Nightmare was gripping his shoulder.

“Are you ignoring me?” it asked. “You know, it's rude to ignore someone when they're talking to you.”

“You're not a someone,” Ojiro found his voice. “You're a-” Ojiro wasn't sure how to finish that sentence, nor could he manage to even try. His voice died in his throat. He couldn't speak, couldn't do anything. He wasn't afraid like before, so why did he feel trapped in his own body. Like a puppet without its strings.

“Hmm, I don't think you should finish that sentence,” the Nightmare was smirking once again. “Well? Come with me,” the being walked deeper into the forest, and, against his will, Ojiro followed the creature.

Realization dawned on Ojiro, it was the vampire doing this, keeping him from using his own body. Ojiro felt despair in the knowledge that his dying moments wouldn't be his own. His last moments would be in as a living doll for the amusement of a Nightmare.

He found himself pulled further and further away from his town, his home, and his family. He walked into the darkness.