Warning: This work has been rated 16+.
Words of concern floated in and out of his consciousness. He felt nothing. The blank, expansive blackness engulfed his body and mind. He knew that he would open his eyes when he felt ready.
"In..forest...took...passed...school..." They came in sequences, some unintelligible and others fragmented. It was only when the words came in full sentences and he could hear the rustle of the wind that he felt it was safe enough to open his eyes. Yasmin was standing near him, her phone pressed against her ear. Light filtered in through the trees and shone on his face. Mateo shifted away, his eyes watering.
"Holy shit he's--your awake! How did you even get all the way over here," before he could even respond, she continued, "Yeah, yeah. See ya Luka." A chord of bewilderment flashed through his mind.
"Luka?" He knew exactly what she said though he couldn't help but repeat it. Things were only getting weirder and weirder. It was one thing after the next and he could only hope it stopped soon.
"Yeah. Do you know her or something?"
Mateo sprung to his feet, the words tumbling out of his mouth like an avalanche. As he was talking, even he was surprised at how much energy he had.
"Only this morning! I had passed out and woke up outside and had this weird memory of a gold eye and she was the one who woke me up. And now it's happened again! What the hell are in those pills you gave me?"
She seemed to freeze up, lowering her eyes to the ground.
"Well, I got them from Luka. She said she doesn't even really know, all she told me was that it's a mixture of a bunch of things." He held himself back from saying what he truly wanted to say. Taking something even she didn't know what had in it was probably the most stupid thing ever. She could be so gullible sometimes. He felt as though he were a parent scolding their child. Still, even he couldn't help but blame himself for being foolish too.
"Didn't you hallucinate too?" Her questioning, confused expression already told him enough.
"No, not at all. What'd you see?" The recent memories rolled through his head like an old film. Some parts were left blank, only filled in by his panicked thinking. It disgusted him to meld in with all the other people of this town. He kicked them to the curb, pushing them to the recesses of his mind along with the gold eye.
"Let's just get out of this forest." The trees still stood as eerie reminders of what he had seen. His eyes could not escape the scenery around him, though his mind could. As they walked, his surroundings dissipated. The grasses folded over and melted into pools of shallow, pink waters. The trees shape shifted into bio luminescent, teal flowers which spun and twirled.
Luscious foliage made of thousands of different colors sparkled and shone. It was all made up of tiny, geometric patterns. The underbelly of a huge, orange red sun sat above the beautiful world. A snake unwrapped its coiled body from a tree branch, its piercing yellow eyes observing him. It had black, fierce eyeliner and purple scales that complimented all the hues of color that surrounded it.
Yasmin was a white, glowing figure which led him through the land. Nothing but her outline remained. In the distance he could almost hear the powerful yet patient rush of a waterfall. The view now panned outside of his body. He could see himself with brown bull horns which came out of the sides of his head. In this world he could be strong and wise yet understanding and empathetic. Mateo hungered to see more, yet his perfect imagination began to tear at the seams as Jasmin's voice entered his mind.
"I'm sorry about what happened earlier. I texted the group chat and we're thinking of exploring Sacred Heart later today." She stood in front of him now. Her brown skin glistened in the sun and her hazel eyes watched him eagerly. Internally he knew he had experienced too much for one day. Then again, he could already picture himself sitting alone in his room paranoid.
"Will Bug be coming?"
A big grin broke out across her face. "What's it without him? As long as his mom sees Lee is coming she won't care." It was hard to refuse if everyone was coming. She was like a begging puppy that it was impossible to say no to. The school had always intrigued him, but he had never imagined actually stepping inside it. His mind begged him to refuse but he knew he'd feel bad for not coming.
"Okay I'll come," he said with a sigh. The onset of a headache began to tap at his forehead.
"Alright, cool. I have to catch up with Luka. Cya!"
She took off in the opposite direction, speed walking so fast it looked ridiculous. The fact that Yasmin knew her boggled his mind. Sognore was too small of a town. To his surprise his bike was still laying on the gravel where he had left it. I guess it's so banged up that not even a hobo would steal it. He smiled at the truth of it. As he rode back down the path, Mateo kept his eyes straight ahead. Few thoughts plagued his mind.
It wasn't until he was standing outside his house that a flash of something odd and creepy floated to the surface of his mind. Though it were blurry, he could tell it looked akin to a mime or a clown. He could remember how it hung slanted over his face yet he did not feel any fear or care. This time needles of discomfort prodded his stomach. It was enough to steer him away from drugs for awhile. The backdrop of thin, spindly trees which stretched from the backside of his house felt even more intimidating at that moment. Sure as hell won't be stupid enough to take something I don't even know next time, he thought with a smirk. Yasmin's genuine emotions always got to him.
The nap he was about to take would be heaven sent. Getting up later would be a pain in the ass but it didn't matter as long as he could have a few hours of only completely nothing. Just as he were about to walk inside, the brush of fur against his pants made his heart spring in joy. Bromi's big, round eyes looked up at him. Mateo crouched on the other side of the door, his hand outstretched.
"Come on you big fat baby!" Bromi trotted inside, making his way to Mateo's room. Sleeping was always better with him. Often Bromi would lay on his lap, or on his side, or by his head. He was squishy yet had a bit of muscle at the same time which made him perfect for cuddling. Mateo flung his shirt across the room and lay down next to Bromi, who had already been perched on his bed before he even came in.
The hotness and the lack of light didn't matter when his cat were around. Though it might've sounded like an exaggeration to some, he always felt safe when Bromi was around. Mateo lay on his side, Bromi's warm body pressed up against him. For a few minutes jumbled thoughts about his weird day flew around his brain like pester-some flies; though they soon melted away into his bed sheets and sunk below the floor.
When he awoke again, he felt like he hadn't slept in a million years. His eyes were as heavy as sandbags and couldn't open more than a slit. His mind was a foggy dreamland which had no end or beginning. Though his sleepiness felt like a massive weight upon his body, Mateo was still thankful for having no dreams. The faint light which slipped through his window was fuzzy and dark grey. Even the slight movement of propping himself up against the backboard of his bed was difficult.
"Even breathing," he paused to inhale deeply, "is a waste of my energies." A stupid smile was plastered to his face. The big pocket of space which Bromi took up was now noticeably empty. His heart panged with disappointment. The delirium of waking from sleep soon began to fade and was replaced by the heaviness of his eyes and the weight of his body. The thought of having to get out of bed bothered him. Sure, he was bored all the time but it wasn't like he had the energy to do anything about it.
"Why'd I even agree to going? Yasmin being a dumbass fucked up my day anyway," he muttered. Cause you're stupid, his brain answered for him. It took him a few counts to ten to finally get up. Being prepared was better than looking like a hobo. Then again, he'd fit right in. The sight of his closet always seemed to bother him. Most of his clothes were too proper. It amazed Mateo that his mom was so absent and uncaring yet when it came to what he wore it was all too important.
The school didn't even have a dress code. Girls could walk around with half of their ass hanging out and it wasn't a problem at all. He had hangers and hangers of button up shirts and formal pants. It was almost a joke to look so traditional among a bunch of people who either dressed like the crackheads they were or those who had an actual, modern fashion taste.
Still, Mateo was grateful he somewhat didn't look like the first. Besides, there was barely a choice. Sognore only had one clothing store. Just as he were about to finish the top button, his phone began to ring annoyingly loud. It was so unexpected that he jumped. He rushed over to where he had left his phone, fumbling to open it and furrowing his eyebrows at the name. Lee? He usually wasn't one to call.
"Hey what's up?"
"Yo, me and Bug are walking over to the school right now. Think Yasmin's on her way, maybe with Em? Not sure." Lee's voice was apathetic and nonchalant, though that was nothing new.
"Ight, I'll be over soon."
"Cool. See ya soon."
The thought of going made him nervous, excited, and annoyed all at the same time. Mateo had had enough creepy experiences for one day, yet he couldn't seem to help himself. It was almost as though he would feel bad for saying no. At least it was a lesson learned to never take drugs from Yasmin ever again. He threw on a black jacket and ran water and coconut oil through his hair. He figured it wouldn't help the messiness much but it was better than nothing.
The sight of his mom in the kitchen surprised him even more than the ringing of his phone. It made a lot of sense when he saw the Instaramen on the counter. Still, he didn't see her all that often.
"Yeah." Her indifferent response was interrupted by the shut of the door. This time the air was hot and muggy, the complete opposite of this morning. He could already feel the phantom bites of blood hungry mosquitoes. The air which rushed by his sides as he sped up was exhilarating. At times the onset of darkness brought out flashes of fearsome thoughts to the forefront of his mind, though he tried his best to push it away. It was nice to already know the way there. Since Sognore was more forest and swamp than land, there was little of actual civilization left. He didn't have to remember anything difficult or significant. Mateo probably wouldn't have tried to anyway.
The school was right smack in the center of the town so it was a pretty easy find. It was an everyday reminder of what had happened there and the blatant noncaring of the people who had abandoned it. His vision, which had been clouded by the fuzziness of the dark grey sky, was now brought back to life by the few light posts which lined the street. They were the only street lights in the entire town. The humid air which stuck to his back and shoulders felt like a stubborn spirit that was trying to possess his body. It was a strange comparison, but it was fitting for how uncomfortable it was.
Pebbles flipped under the tires of his bicycle as he skid to a stop. It was a four story building, the tallest in all of the town. It looked much more ominous in the nighttime; the complete opposite of sacred. Mateo set his bike against the side of a tree, triggering off a gruesome memory of the crying eyes which crowded the bark earlier today. He ignored it despite the shivers that ran down his spine. It wasn't a wise choice to let the creepy images play through his head as he were about to enter a supposedly haunted building. As he got closer, Mateo could see Bug standing behind Yasmin and Lee by them.
"Yo Mateo!" Yasmin's voice was so loud and excited that she could have woken up all the animals in the forest with only one word.
"Shh! Don't want a crackhead to run over and smash you over the head with a bottle do you?" Despite being a joke, Lee's voice had a ring of concern in it. Bug snickered.
"You look tired," said Bug with a smile.
"That's cause I am, I took a I don't even know how long nap before coming over here." Lee raised an eyebrow, his grey eyes looking slightly down at him. His eyes were unsettling and oddly shaped, as though he barely had any eyelids, though it was the only intimidating feature about him.
"You're asleep almost all the time, you should really get that checked out. Mrs. Bailey is pissed at you enough already." Yasmin was completely zoned out, her eyes locked on her phone. He couldn't tell whether it was out of some sort of urgency or she was just intently focused. Maybe she didn't want to look him in the face?
"I've tried everything, I've kinda just given up at this point," Mateo shrugged, and then continued, "Is Em coming?"
Yasmin butted in, her unruly neon green hair crowding close to her face as she looked up at him.
"She said she's sneaking out right now. Well, five minutes ago she said that." Her eyebrows furrowed, her mouth tightening as though she were thinking of what could've happened.
"I'm sure she'll be fine, she's done it a bunch of times before anyway," Bug said. Mateo got the feeling he was just trying to be reassuring, though he was right. Em was very calculated about how she did things. The light reflected from the street lights only graced their faces, leaving their bodies in the dark. It almost looked as though they were only floating heads. The lapse of silence was only filled with their low breathing; not even the crickets chirped. It wasn't awkward. Instead, it made Mateo's breath hitch in his chest nervously. Thank God for the few lights they had or he would feel even worse.
"How long has it been now?" Lee asked. He sounded impatient and ready to get over with it. Bug yawned, stretching his arms over his head.
"Ten minutes," said Yasmin nonchalantly. Bug sat down on the gravel and dirt, his blonde, fluffy hair flopping to the side.
"I wonder if it's actually haunted. I mean, it could be but it seems like they would leave right after they died." His voice was full of curiosity and contemplation.
"No shit! If I died in this town, I wouldn't wait around and look at the scenery! This place is fuckin' disgusting." Her eyebrow was raised, a playful grin on her face.
"She has a point," said Mateo. Just as Bug were about to speak again, probably to rattle on about ghosts and the paranormal, a voice interrupted him.
"Sorry," she paused to take a breath, "I took so long. Hadda run here." Em came out of the darkness as though she had just walked between dimensions. Her blonde, straight hair was a mess. Strings of hair were flopped in all sorts of directions and her face glistened with sweat.
"Run? What happened to your skateboard?" said Yasmin in surprise. Em's house was fairly far away, near the outskirts of Sognore and by the heart of the forest.
"Mom took it." It was like when Yasmin and Em were talking they were in their own world together. It was as if everyone else didn't even exist.
"Tch, what a bitch."
"Yah." Em's eyes were downcast, running her hand through her tangled hair. She looked up, tilting her head. Her icy eyes mirrored the allure of the Antarctic under the bright light.
"So are we gonna figure out if this place is haunted or not?" Bug got up, brushing the dirt off his jeans. Mateo's heart did not thump in anticipation no longer and his breathing had returned to normal. He felt more confident with them. Yasmin was about to say something but Em cut her off before she could even utter a word.
"I'll go first," she stated.
"How are we gonna see?" Lee asked. Bug pulled a small flashlight out of his pocket, shining it on his face.
"We'll be seeing but now you won't be able to," he said with a grin. Lee lifted his arm in front of his eyes, blocking out the glaring light.
"Okay, okay I get it. I'm a clown," he said with a half smile.
At times Mateo felt as though he wasn't as important in the group or maybe just did not talk enough. He always tried reassuring himself by blaming it on insecurities or overthinking which were probably true.
"Are we going or not?" said Yasmin impatiently. Em perked up at Yasmin's words, casually strolling to the front of the group. Bug looked as though he were about to speak up, though he stayed quiet and shined the flashlight ahead of her. The top of the building was a dull brown, lined with three sets of six windows above its grey bottom. Cheap, yellowed shutters crowded the bottom windows while the ones above were empty. Even a stranger would be able to conclude that it was either incredibly dirt poor or abandoned. This time they were using the side door as the front one was usually closed unless the pastor was using it for bible study.
As Em grabbed the handle and the grey door creaked open, a musty, rotten smell slapped them in the face. The air was much heavier compared to that outside. Em stood there for a moment, seemingly surveying the area. It wasn't until she looked above her that a blood curling scream echoed throughout the building.