THREE DAYS LEFT…
MARI woke up with a sudden start.
Blinking for a few seconds, she tiredly rubbed her eyes before looking at the digital clock by her bed.
Ugh… She woke up way too early. On one of the rare nights where she wasn't having any dreams or nightmares too…
She slowly shook her head, before noticing a blinking light right beside the clock. Her house phone, flashing to notify her that she had a voicemail.
It was probably her dad again. Used to be her phone would only get voicemails from both Dad and HERO during the beginning of her slump since SUNNY- … since SUNNY went to the hospital. She doesn't get voicemails from HERO anymore since she blocked his number though. So it definitely had to be Dad.
She contemplated whether it would be worth it to stand up and walk over just to listen to it. She felt rather sluggish, and would really rather stay in bed.
Sigh… No, the least she could do was hear his message. It might be important, like he was sending another check again to pay her expenses and last her for another month. Or it could be him warning her that his business trip was going to take longer than usual, so she won't be able to see him visiting anytime soon.
Hopefully he won't remind her to go outside more often or to take up a hobby… She wasn't really in the mood to listen to another long nagging voicemail about her mental health.
With a groan, she brought herself out of bed and trudged towards the phone. Pressing on the button, she listened to the voicemail left for her.
"... Hey sweetie! It's your father. I hope I didn't call you while you were sleeping. Time zones here are different and I forgot if the clocks over here are too fast or too slow… Anyway, I won't keep you for long. I just wanted to tell you that my business trip will be taking longer than expected, so I won't be able to come home anytime soon. I'm really sorry about this 'hun, but I promise I'll bring back souvenirs so that you can decorate your room! I'm sure SUNNY would appreciate seeing some new stuff if he ever wakes- … I mean, when he eventually wakes up."
MARI couldn't help but give another tired sigh.
"To make it up to you though, I've already sent you a check that should give you about three months worth for food, water, and electricity. That should be more than enough time to last you before I can come back home. Be responsible, don't spend it all in willy-nilly, okay? Be back home soon sweetie, I love you!"
Guess she'll need to be on the lookout for another check in the mail then.
If it wasn't for the pictures decorated all around the house, she wasn't sure if she'd be able to even remember her dad's face anymore with how often he left her alone.
She certainly couldn't remember what her mother looked like anymore. Unable to handle the grief over SUNNY, she suddenly had the urge to go visit her relatives one day and decided to never come back. Dad says that she was just grieving, but MARI honestly couldn't care less.
Sludging her feet back towards the bed, she fell over with a thump and covered herself in her blanket.
With one tired eye open, she looked over to see the other empty bed sitting just a few feet away from her own. The blanket was tucked in and the pillows were fluffed every single day. MARI made a point to always clean and wash the blankets or pillows if they ever collected too much dust. But no one ever slept in that bed anymore.
She closed her eyes, eventually finding her energy drained as she slowly fell back into sleep…
She was starving, she realized.
When was the last time she ate again?
Ah, that's right. The last thing she ate was that piece of steak she made for SUNNY yesterday when she came to visit. That had to be… what, fourteen hours ago?
She didn't really feel like moving though… The bed was too comfortable, and her eyes were so heavy. She wondered if she couldn't just ignore the hunger inside and just go back to sleep.
Ugh, this would have never happened if she just ate something for dinner last night. She knew better to maintain a healthy eating schedule, but she just… she just didn't really feel like eating at the time.
Since it was coming back to bite her though, she had no choice but to go downstairs and grab something quick to eat.
Leaving the sanctity of her bed and exiting her room, she took a deep breath as she looked towards the stairway in her house.
Even though it had been six years since the incident, it never got easier for her.
Steeling herself for the trial ahead, she stepped towards the stairs and gripped tightly on the railing. She still had the bad knee, so it was important for her to take it slow.
One by one, step by step, she walked down the stairs. Never letting go of the railing. Never letting the same mistake happen again.
She was so careless that day. Why did she have to lose balance near the stairs? Why did she have to reach out and grab SUNNY like that? If only she didn't have the bad knee from that softball game back in middle school. If only she had just kept her hands to herself… Why were they even having an argument next to the stairs in the first place? She couldn't even remember what they were arguing about, it seemed so important at the time…
She couldn't believe the last time they talked, she was screaming at his face over something that didn't even matter anymore.
And now he's gone.
Was it just her, or was the stairway taking longer than usual to go down?
She couldn't help but feel like she was walking down to the depths of the ocean with how long this took.
It was so dark in this house. Why did it have to be so dark? Why couldn't the light switch for this room be on the top of the stairs instead of the very bottom?
Her breathing became unsteady. Her vision started to darken, making the room that much more harder to see.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she thought she could see hands protruding out of the walls. Hands. Hands. Hands. Hands everywhere.
Reaching out to grab her. Reaching out to push her. Reaching out to make sure that she'll fall and suffer just like she did to her little brother.
She had to stop in place and hug the railing tightly as she began hyperventilating.
MARI was AFRAID.
The hands… She could feel them crawling all over her back. If she made one wrong move, one wrong step, they'll push her down without hesitation.
Don't let go of the railing, MARI… Don't let go of the railing…
Slowly, steadily, miraculously, she managed to make it to the bottom of the staircase. No worse for wear.
The moment her foot landed on the final step, she could feel all the hands around her retreating back to the dark depths of her mind where they came from.
Letting go of the railing, she steadied herself to make sure she didn't collapse to the floor. She wasn't sure if she could stand back up if she did.
Breathe…Slow, steady breaths.
MARI took a deep breath and CALMED DOWN.
Now that the worst part of it all was over, she could finally make her way to the kitchen.
Leftover steak from yesterday.
Although steak was more SUNNY's favorite food rather than hers, she didn't really have any other option in the fridge.
Taking the steak out of the microwave, she grabbed a steak knife and fork before chowing down.
Swallowing a bite, she fought back the urge to grimace… Ugh, doesn't taste as good when it's not fresh from the grill.
She definitely should have eaten this last night instead of waiting until now.
After this, she should make sure to buy some tofu later in the morning. Not exactly her favorite either, but at least it was cheap and filling.
Finishing the meal and putting the dishes in the sink, she gave another depressed sigh.
Taking a glance at the steak knife, she went ahead and started washing it, "Shouldn't leave this out in the open. Might accidentally cut myself if I'm not paying attention."
And since she was already in the process, might as well wash the other dishes too.
It took her a brief moment before she was done, just in time for her to give a tired yawn.
Her eyes still felt heavy.
At least she was going to be heading UP the stairs instead of down this time. Walking up never seems to faze her, it was trying to go down that was the hard part for her.
*KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK*
Someone was knocking at the front door.
But who could that even be? It was three in the morning, everyone in the neighborhood should be asleep right about now.
Cautiously, she exited the kitchen and stepped towards the front door.
Looking out in the eyehole, she couldn't see anyone on the other side.
Was it just her imagination then?
"W-..." She hesitated a bit, before quietly asking, "Who's there?"
MARI? It's me, SUNNY.
I stayed out too late playing at BASIL's house and now the sun is down… I've been trying to get home but the door is locked. It's dark outside and I'm really scared.
MARI could only stare blankly at the door.
Can you let me back inside? Please?
MARI could hear her heart beating loudly against her chest.
She was going insane. SUNNY was still in the hospital. There's no way he could be outside her front door right now.
What was he doing at BASIL's house? If he was awake all this time, why didn't he come back home to her?
She had been waiting for him to wake up for so long...
It couldn't be her brother.
She had to at least check though. Check to make sure it was true.
What if the past six years were only just a nightmare? What if SUNNY was still awake this entire time?
If there was even a chance that SUNNY would come back home to her...
She unlocked the door, and slowly opened it to take a peek.
Just a small peek.
A smiling three-eyed demon forced the door open and attacked her.
She woke up with a start.
MARI was still in the kitchen. She just finished washing the dishes and put the last plate away.
A nightmare. She fell asleep standing and had a nightmare.
She felt like she was going to be sick.
Nausea quickly filled her mind as her vision became disoriented and dizzy. She could feel the leftover steak from earlier quickly rising up in her throat.
Knowing what was about to come, she began speed walking to the stair room and ran up the steps.
She shoved the door to the bathroom open and sprinted all the way to the toilet, opening the lid up just barely in time before she felt her stomach hurl everything she ate.
She shut her eyes closed, the only sound to accompany her was the disgusting noise of her wretching all over the inside of the toilet.
After it was all over, she took a deep breath.
Oh god, that steak did not agree with her.
Welp, so much for her appetite. At least she wasn't starving anymore.
Flushing the toilet, she stepped over to the sink and began washing her face clean.
She was so tired… So so so tired.
She just wants to go to sleep.
Grabbing the towel to dry herself off, she looked up to the mirror to see her reflection.
Her long hair was all frazzled and unkempt, years of neglect building up to result in what could politely be considered an optimal nest for the birds or raccoons.
The bags under her eyes were completely overshadowed by her bangs, covering up half of her view.
Her skin, no longer having the healthy pink hue she used to have while she was young, was now pale and sickly white. Years doing nothing but staying in her room, waiting for something to happen.
Covered only by her white sleeping gown. Wrinkled and disheveled, just like the rest of her.
All in all, she looked like she could be a good shoe in replacement for that one ghost girl from The Ring.
She briefly glanced over to the doorway in her reflection to see…
SOMETHING… behind her.
Her eyes widened. She dared not move. She dared not breathe.
Three eyes. It always had three eyes. Two left ones and one right.
It was staring at her. She knows it was there. She wasn't crazy, she could see it right there.
It had always been there, staying right behind her, ever since the nightmares started.
Judging her. Taunting her. Reminding her of her mistake.
Reminding her that it was her fault.
Gripping the sink tightly, she mentally prepared herself as she got ready to turn around. To catch it. To make sure she could grab it in time and kill it so that it could never haunt her again.
But when she finally turned around, it disappeared. Like it was never there at all.
Turning back to the mirror, she looked at the doorway in her reflection. Missing. Gone.
She wasn't crazy. No, she was not crazy. SHE'S NOT.
She was just tired.
So so so tired…
She made her way to her bedroom, making sure to ignore any and all distractions.
Slumping over the bed, she didn't even bother covering herself up with a blanket.
She closed her eyes and desperately willed herself to sleep.
MARI just wanted to hang out with her little brother right now…
WELCOME TO BRIGHTSPACE
YOU HAVE BEEN LIVING HERE FOR AS LONG AS YOU CAN REMEMBER
HIKIKO opened her eyes, waking up in a bright endless void of a room. Surrounding her was her personal knick-knacks that she used to pass the time when she wasn't busy.
A blanket to keep her tushie comfortable to sit in. A laptop to help her organize her schedule better and write her personal journals of her day. A small toy piano that she uses to express her creative freedom through music. Her pet kitty MEWO sitting in the corner taking a nap.
And lastly, a rope hanging from the endless ceiling above, dangling above a chair. For when she decided to wake up. A quick and easy escape.
Standing up from her spot, she wordlessly turned to the white door that was the only exit out of here.
Opening the door, on the other side was a small playroom. Filled with toys, games, and all sorts of fun things. The sky was purple and the stars were out. It looked like today was going to be a beautiful day to play with her friends.
In front of her, four kids around her age were distracting themselves sitting in a circle playing a card game.
A girl with a pink ribbon noticed her first and called out to the others, "Guys look! HIKIKO is here!"
The boy with short hair next to her excitedly waved at her, "Hey HIKIKO! We've been waiting for you! Let's go outside and play!"
The other boy, a little bit older than the rest, gave her a bright, warm, and charming grin, "HIKIKO! Always a pleasure to see your beautiful eyes again."
And lastly, the boy in front of them… Although usually expressionless and shy, he turned around to give her a small smile.
HIKIKO smiled back at them.
"Hi, SUNNY. Hi, everyone. Where do you guys want to play first?"
SUNNY pointed up the stairs of the exit hole in their hide out, "BASIL said he's waiting for us at the lake. Let's go visit him."
"Sure! Let's not keep him waiting then!" HIKIKO proclaimed cheerfully.
And so, another fun adventure begins for the kids from FARAWAY.