Chapter 6: Dead (Part 1)

Eden had been walking for…days? It seemed like days. Maybe longer. There wasn’t much she could use to keep track of the time. The sky remained a constant black, casting dim starlight down upon the old country road that stretched out before her. The road itself was relatively barren, a sprawling line of paved dirt and gravel with the occasional streetlamp along the side. That was it, really. She hadn’t passed any other landmarks, and it was too dark to see that far off the sides of the road anyway, as if the area around the road was faded and blurred by the everlasting night.

It occurred to her that she hadn’t slept, hadn’t felt the need to sleep, which was part of why she had so much trouble counting the hours. She wasn’t exactly a fountain of energy, per say, but the idea of sleeping just didn’t seem all that important. Not when there was such a long way to go.

Go where?

There was something at the end of the road, although she knew she wouldn’t reach it for quite some time. It made sense though…who would make a road with no destination? The road had been placed here for a reason, pieced together into an arrow that stretched for miles and miles into the distance, a line that would end in a single point. The only thing to do was go forward.

She tried thinking back to when she first started her journey, but the memories slipped away like the indistinguishable swirl of dusk that pressed up against the sides of the path. There were brief glimpses: a young savage boy covered in white, odd people wearing domed masks, a torn black abyss, spewing darkness that surrounded her and…then nothing. These were the islands of lamppost light that occasionally fell upon her mind, but outside, all was shadow.

It wasn’t worth worrying about it now. She took a step, then another.

At first she thought it was a hallucination, or an illusion, but the closer she got, the more she was certain that the tiny speck on the horizon was real. It was the first and only change of scenery she had witnessed along the road, and although it was just a small dot, she knew it had great importance. Was this the destination she had been heading towards? She quickened her pace, suddenly anxious and unwilling to wait even a second longer.

Hours later, the speck was more or less the same. It had grown, slightly…but at a rate that was almost disheartening. She closed her eyes as she continued to walk, hoping that when she opened them the speck would miraculously appear before her, revealing its true nature. After a moment, she risked taking a glance and was surprised to see that the speck had indeed gotten considerably closer in a much shorter amount of time. Fueled by this revelation, she shut her eyes again and took off running.

With her eyes closed, she had a greater sense of the ground beneath her feet, a patchwork of material. Thousands of rocks, millions of tiny bits of gravel, a billion grains of sand and dust…each individual and minuscule element flew by as she ran, her soles only touching a fraction of the whole.

And then there was nothing.

She stumbled lightly and her eyes shot open, although for a second it was as if she still had them closed. The air around her was murky, almost too thick to see the lamp light in the distance, the road so far away.

In her rush to get to the speck, her direction had shifted just a few fractions of an angle off, but that was enough to send her astray over a long distance. How had she not realized sooner? The pressure around her grew and her body began to convulse under the strain, as if the air was suffocating her. She pushed forward towards the dimming light from the road but there was something on top of her, pressing down, clawing at her, tearing her apart as she gagged and lurched ahead and fell and-

She was back on the road. The pressure evaporated immediately, but she lay still, expecting it to return at any moment. For the first time she could remember, she was aware of her breath, quick gasps, her heart beating against her chest, fast but getting slower…

And then silence.

But no, there was another noise nearby, something new. It was faint, but noticeable.

Someone was singing.

She lifted her head up in the direction of the music and saw that a building had appeared just a little ways down the road. It was an ugly assortment of wood and brick, with thick, dirty windows that lined the front and a garish neon sign above the doorway that was clear even in the distance:

“Welcome to the Sallawalla Diner.”

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