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Severed Chains

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Things were quiet, as far as Jake could tell.

His eyelids felt heavy and his limbs stuck to his sides as he slowly came to. His brow furrowing as confusion set in and his eyes finally cracked open.

This can't be right... Instead of the endless sky of The Entity's realm, his eyes met a dark, wooden ceiling. There was no comforting amber glow of the campfire, only cold, brittle air of this place he didn't know. Was he summoned prematurely into a trial? Was he passed out inside the killer shack?

No... Something didn't feel right. Rather, the bizarre and disorienting plain that was his prison is now in a state of strange normality.

Wait, this place felt familiar... But not the awful familiarity that trapped him and his fellow survivors. It was a warm, comforting feeling with a lingering sense of unease. Things did not remain peaceful for long in The Fog. But did he even know where here was?

Feeling uncertain in his shaky thoughts, he rose from his position on... a bed..?

No, it can't be.

His mind slowly coming to a realization he had yet to understand, his eyes remained stagnant as his thoughts jumbled relentlessly in his mind. A faint ringing in his ears - the tone piercing - as a harsh flood of memories swept through his consciousness.

The last trial.

The Entity's last meal.

It whispered to them, telling of the horrific death they would face if they were to die now. Maybe it told the killers the same. Jake couldn't care less if he was being honest.

It gave them no time to prepare or say preemptive goodbyes in case of the worst. It thrust them into a foreign place in The Fog the moment they opened their eyes.

It felt strange, to say the least. Almost like he was waking up from a dream - rather a nightmare - as he stumbled to the nearest generator in this strange place. Every hit and every hook felt too genuine. The pain was surreal.

Blinking, he sat up from his position almost lethargically; The Entity’s trials had built into his system to be quiet, to keep as unnoticeable as possible, and a small part in him was afraid everything was a lie. The fear that he never left The Fog remained intact as he gazed around the room.

Yet, things looked so accurate to how he remembered them. His bedroom was all the more welcoming than he remembered; his door cracked open slightly and the natural light of the moon pouring in from his window.

A small fern he kept tucked in his corner had withered slightly, but almost seemed to perk up as his gaze darted to it. It didn't quite make sense... How was it still alive?

His mind wandered briefly to his mother. She's probably given up on him from his absence. Maybe even had a funeral he doubted his father attended.

He did not have time to be sorrowful, his eyes immediately darting to his door in fear. If he truly was back, there's no denouncing the idea that the killers weren't back. It would be a sick joke the Entity would pull; to have escaped hell just to die and never return.

A sudden white-hot pain spearing through his right leg halted his attempts to stand. He suppressed the urge to cry out in agony, the feeling akin to the simulated pain created by the Entity when a chainsaw would rip him apart. Yet this felt even more authentic.

Supporting himself on his left leg and holding onto his bedframe, he breathed a quick exhale through his teeth, trying to stifle as much noise as he could. He suspected, even if the Entity gave its killers unmatched strength, he could not defend himself on a clear broken ankle.

With every weakness of the killers being such static items like pallets and flashlights, he felt utterly useless in such a.. normal environment.

He quickly scoured his memory to find any recollection of injuring his leg. He remembered a vague aspect of his last moments in the trial; he was waiting at the exit gates for anyone else who needed help, but only heard the seemingly distant tolls of the Wraith's bell before his form swerved around the corner. He tried to dodge the attack last second, but his axe came in contact with his Achilles, downing him instantly.

Jake only now realized how; No One Escapes Death. He was lucky he wasn’t dragged back into the trial with that dreaded hex active, although he felt a pang of guilt pierce his heart. He hoped everyone else made it. Only a few had escaped before him, but he hoped that the warning from the hit he took was useful information for those who remained.

Clenching his teeth, he limped forward as quietly as he could muster, yet his own footsteps reverberated throughout his small cabin's walls. Holding onto the doorframe for support, he pressed against the door that stood slightly ajar.

He only opened it as much as needed for him to slip through, and the door's hinges luckily did not squeak. Pausing for a moment to listen, it was just as quiet as he awoke.

He could practically feel the beads of sweat dripping down his face as he half-stumbled, half-crouched to his front door's window.

Sliding down the wall, he gazed out of the window in anticipation. Of what, he wasn't sure but nearly sobbed when a dark silhouette seemed to collapse next to a tree. He covered his mouth, squeezing his eyes shut.

He couldn't do this again.

If this was just another nightmare realm, he didn't think he'd be able to handle it anymore.

What he'd do if that were the case? He didn't know, but it gave him not another second to contemplate it before he heard the faint sound of crying.

The next house over was not close at all, and he never had the chance to meet his neighbors when he first moved in. The possibility of it just being a hiker or jogger never came to mind as he was panicking far too much.

Trying to think ahead and plan was not his strong suit. He knew that even with a basic weapon of sorts, one misplay and he would easily fall to the ground and be at the disadvantage. He was better at thinking of the present situation, and that alone, but even then, he needed information about the situation before he could feel confident.

Information was not something he had right now. Not to mention, he has no way to determine how long he's been missing, and if this thing outside his home was just a normal person, he expected nothing less than chaos to ensue.

For once in his life, he needed to think this through. He no longer had infinite lives with no consequences.

The figure suddenly stood, throwing all rational thinking out of the window, as if it were thinking or deciding something Jake wasn’t sure of before turning to his cabin.

It was then Jake found he could not tear his eyes away, and then he noticed the familiar glint of glasses reflecting the moon's silver beams. The figure was very humanoid, that much he could tell; the figure's arms wrapped tightly around themselves as if they were cold or just tentative of something.

His eyes widened when a recognizable face came into his porch light. Dwight.

Dwight raised his fist to knock on the door, but seemed deep in thought as he stared at his reflection on Jake's window; his face was dirt-covered and bloodied, and his torn and tattered clothes did not help his appearance. The same clothes he had been wearing when he arrived in The Fog. His cheeks were tear-stained and Jake's heart strained at the sight of it.

He stood staring at himself, his expression saddening as he shook his head in apparent fatigue or maybe even anxiety. He slowly turned away, his head hung low as his shoulders arched into himself.

Jake snapped out of his trance. It was Dwight. One of his only friends from The Fog, and possibly the only person who would not think he's insane.

Standing as quickly as he could in his current state, he did not hesitate to open his front door.

Dwight visibly jumped at the sudden sound, his head whipping around with an expression that looked as if he was ready to apologize for his entire existence. The action was just so Dwight that Jake could almost cry.

Well, maybe not almost. Because the moment Dwight's somber face pulled into one of pure relief, tears spilled from Jake's eyes.

His limp was barely noticed, and the hug that was exchanged was one of absolute joy.

Jake began sobbing, something he did not do often. Even when he first found out his fate in the Entity's realm, even when he was first hung on a hook, he refused to cry. Shedding tears wasn’t unheard of, but never did a true, emotional lamentation of sorrow escape him.

Jake buried his head in the crook of Dwight's neck without thinking, his sobs slowly dying down. Eventually realizing his position, he pulled back with embarrassment but tried to hide it by wiping at his tears quickly.

Pulling back added pressure to his leg, making him wince. Dwight took notice and finally broke the silence.

"Jake, what-what happened," he asked, his voice cracking slightly from his own crying previously.

Jake held onto Dwight tightly, his injured leg screaming at almost any movement.

Feeling far too overwhelmed to speak, he tried clearing his throat and briefly glanced behind Dwight in paranoia. Shaking his head, Jake tried to let go of Dwight, attempting to hold on to the open door and partially stumbling back inside of the cabin in the process.

"Here, I-I'll just come inside," Dwight laughed, supporting Jake and closing the door behind himself as Jake tried to collect himself.

His living room was directly off from the front door, so he could collapse onto his couch immediately.

He leaned upwards and grabbed his leg; The Wraith definitely broke his ankle. His foot did not look out of place, so he assumed it was a non-displaced fracture. He hoped, at least. He had no way of knowing how to set a bone if they were out of place.

At this point, he no longer cared for staying quiet. His ankle finally began hurting after the adrenaline and shock wore off.

After they shut the door, Dwight gaped as Jake keened in pain.

"Shit, here, hang on," Dwight grunted, helping Jake remove his right shoe and gently rolling up his pant leg. The flesh near the fracture point looked visibly swollen and bruised.

Groaning, Jake clenched his teeth as Dwight examined the damage. Gently touching the skin around the bone, Jake instantly grunted and flinched away. Dwight apologized, that worried and contrite face forming once again, making a small smile form on Jake's tense visage.

"Could you put any pressure on it," he asked, looking at Jake as he shook his head quickly. The moment he had first stood, he felt as if he could pass out from the sudden pain.

"It's-It's dulled now. It hurt like hell when I.. first woke up," Jake trailed off, sighing.

"Why are you here? I live in the middle of goddamn nowhere," he mumbled half-joking, his voice flat. Although he knew vaguely how Dwight ended up in The Fog, he didn't understand why he was in the middle of Jake's woods.

Well, 'Jake's woods' is just a term he coined for himself. An inside joke about how lonely things got up here. To be completely candid, he wasn't even sure if he had neighbors anymore. He never took the time to introduce himself and ignored any mail that wasn't mandatory or from his mother.

"I-I was honestly wondering the same. You know I've told you about how I ended up in The Fog?" Jake nodded.

"Well, it was here. Th-this was the woods that my boss chose for that 'team-building exercise'. It didn't take long for that moonshine to get to me and I was out cold," Dwight spoke slowly, almost wistfully.

"I guess he never really told us where exactly where we were. Probably so I couldn't find a way out," he mumbled that last part bitterly, his brow furrowing in a mixture of anger and confusion.

A sudden throbbing pain pulsed through his ankle, and Jake jerked forward. He breathed explosively, almost a laugh from how he tried to control his breathing. Dwight stood, glancing around briefly before leaning back down.

"Do you have a-a medkit or something like that?" Jake swallowed, thinking, and a memory clicked into place. He remembered one thing his mother insisted on was keeping several first-aid kits and emergency supplies in case of the worst.

Jake smiled softly at the thought of his mother, his heart aching as he just hoped he didn't worry her too much.

"Yeah, the.. the pantry," Jake spoke, Dwight noting his small smile but glancing back around to the pantry.

He nodded, digging around in the pantry past the dried foods and cans of beans and soup until he found a soft, scarlet container with a small white cross in the top-right corner. It reminded both of the boys of the medkits the Entity supplied them.

Jake shivered, the thoughts of that place remaining stubborn even as Dwight returned with the aid kit in hand.

Jake could hardly focus on Dwight beginning to disinfect the small gash from The Wraith's blade. Every motion brought him back to the hundreds - no, thousands - of times he cleaned and patched his wounds. Just a basic medkit could patch tetanus ridden meat hook wounds to a simple open laceration. According to the Entity, that is.

"-Jake?"

Jake's eyes snapped up to Dwight, who just finished a scuffed cleaning of the wound and wrapping the cut in bandages.

"I-I was just saying how your ankle will be okay! Adam taught us some stuff about basics for broken bones and emergency situations and stuff," Dwight exclaimed, a fatigued smile spreading on his lips that was just too contagious for Jake to not reciprocate.

Dwight continued to explain basic fracture points in his ankle. He assured Jake that his bone wasn't displaced, and he wouldn't need to reset it. Jake honestly would not have batted an eye to the pain if it were necessary. He needed desperately to have something else to focus on. Whether it be pain or just anything.

"Is it really over, Jake," Dwight asked, his eyes staring off into nothing. Jake's eyes remained trained on Dwight, scanning his expression. He seemed to be a combination of relief and... anxiety.

Dwight broke his stare with nothing and sunk to the wooden floor, his back against the couch that Jake was partially laying on.

In Jake's peripheral, he saw Dwight remove his glasses silently and rub his eyes. Jake could hardly see his face, and looked away, slightly embarrassed for staring.

Jake involuntarily buried his face in his scarf, covering his upper face in the crook of his arm and sighing.

"Jake?"

Turning his head, he only then realized his eyes feeling exceptionally tired as his eyes moistened with frustration. Groaning, he wiped his face, but Dwight continued to stare.

"I'm fine, Dwight. I just-" Jake trailed off, his voice cracking slightly as he spoke. Dwight turned around and stood.

"Do you.. have any food that I could get you? I remember that food used to help when I wasn't feeling right," Dwight smiled, his head tilting slightly and Jake's eyes softened. A small smile spread on Jake's lips, making Dwight beam, and he felt a light laugh bubble up in his chest.

"I don't have any comfort food if that's what you're asking," he laughed, raking a hand through his raven hair. Dwight pouted and crossed his arms dramatically, giggling softly as Jake covered his face, trying to stifle his chuckle.

"I grow almost all of my food myself. Sometimes I'll head into town when I want something specific," Jake explained through his grin as Dwight listened, intrigued.

"Whoa, so you're like-like a farmer," Dwight marveled, the simple fact sending him into wonders, and Jake raised a brow at his simple fascination.

Neither Jake nor Dwight had experienced hunger or thirst since they had first arrived in The Fog and the thought of eating made Jake slightly nauseous.

Sometimes, they would drift asleep by the fire and wake up in a trial. Jake did not enjoy sleeping. He convinced himself it was just paranoia that he'd wake up on a hook and die prematurely. Dwight would take any chance he could get outside of a trial to sleep; often retreating just far enough into the misty woods where he could see the gentle glow of the campfire.

Part of Jake hated it when Dwight would wander off like that. Some others had claimed to see the killers lurking deep in the forest; Meg had once come limping back to the camp with a bear trap wound around her ankle. The rest of them listening intently to her swearing that The Trapper was out there.

Claudette was the only one who really believed her, but it soon became more of a secondary threat than a tale to spread around the campfire. Even Jake remembered when the harpoon wielding killer arrived that he could hear gunshots fire out in the woods.

Now that he thought about it, it was around when Meg first spoke of The Trapper in the woods did his dislike for sleeping arise. The Entity did not seem to care whether he was tired. It summoned him into a trial whenever it felt necessary.

Shortly after that point, Dwight would take sleeping by Jake's log over the woods.

"What are you smiling about," Dwight asked, grinning as Jake tried to snuff out his pleasant memory.

Jake shook his head, "Just remembering when you would sleep out in the woods. Then when Meg thought she saw Trapper in there, you came back to the fire," Jake sighed, saying it out loud it kind of sounded like an insult.

"Oh, and that's making you smile? I guess it was kinda stupid to get all scared," Dwight said, rubbing the back of his neck and Jake felt a pang through his heart.

"It..! I didn’t mean to insult you, sorry. I guess I'm just having a hard time believing that we're actually free," he continued, Dwight visibly relaxing and chuckling awkwardly in response. Jake sat splayed out on the couch; his legs propped up on the arm of the furniture while his head lay flat on the cushion.

Jake glanced behind himself at the empty half of the couch.

"You can sit on the couch if you want to," Jake breathed, and Dwight's eyes widened at the gesture from his position standing over Jake.

He sat stiffly, Jake gazing up at him.

They sat for several minutes; Dwight slowly relaxing and succumbing to his overwhelming fatigue. Jake relaxed as well, burying his face in his scarf.

"Things'll be okay, right?"

The question caught Dwight off guard. Jake had remained fairly quiet despite the pain he was in and the fantasy of escaping finally becoming a reality. In all honesty, Dwight’s concern for Jake overcame his worry about the terrifying possibility that The Fog would drag them back to The Entity.

"Of course. We've made it this far, right," Dwight finished, a small but slightly unsure smile spreading on his lips.

Dwight knew that he could have no way of knowing for sure if The Entity would drag them back. Right now, Dwight just chose to just be a comfort for Jake. He's always been quiet and introverted, even blunt at times, but now he just seems off.

Dwight lay his head back on the couch cushion, his eyes staring up at the ceiling with disinterest; his mind was elsewhere, after all. Jake watched him under his eyelashes, scooting closer to Dwight's warmth without thinking.

He didn't even remember his eyes closing.