Bystander to the end of a world; the second day
On the second day, he met him.
Noises were cornering them; they fled, running for their lives, pretending to know which way led where despite him not remembering a single thing about the city he was wandering in. Even with his silent yet powerful Partner, they were no match for the beasts hunting them. They needed help. He could not let everything end now. Run. Breathe. Move your legs. Feel your muscles cry for release. Ignore the pain; gasp, keep on running. He felt like he had been doing that often, for some reason. In a dream, perhaps.
Finally, at a corner, he saw someone who saw them back. Players were invisible to normal people, but this man clearly turned his head towards them when they came rushing in. In a decisive instant of fate, their eyes met. None of them realized back then that their lives would be intertwined for a while.
Panic. Fear. Urgency. An irregular heartbeat and a prayer of beseeching. Sweat messing his blond hair up. That was the image he reflected.
On the other side, he could see: calm, quiet, indifference. A confident yet detached composure. Charisma oozing out from his whole body. Sharp green eyes looking at him with an undecipherable air. That was the image reflected to him.
He stopped running and slowly came to a halt before the man. He looked perhaps a few years older, but there was something timeless about his look and expression. He was being drawn in by the man’s aura; something about this green-eyed man that made him think he could probably leave his destiny up to him. He didn’t understand why, but he strongly felt it.
“Please, help us!” he dared asking him, out of breath. “Noises are after us…”
A few seconds, pages of a calendar being teared off. Silence, tension. He couldn’t read him. His face was a mystery novel and his eyes a forest hiding the single leaf he was looking for. He could hear the Noises coming for them from not so far away.
Finally, a cymbal stroke to conclude this brief interlude.
“Why should I help you?” the man answered.
His heart started beating faster despite his legs having stopped moving. He couldn’t even stop his feelings from blurting out from his mouth.
“B-But…! Because we’re about to DIE here! Aren’t you a Player too?! Shouldn’t you be helping us survive?! Don’t you have any compassion…?”
A sudden wave of panic, too great to be ignored. His whole body started shaking at that reply.
Not because the Noises were getting closer and closer. Maybe they would kill him and his beloved partner. That was a possibility to consider. It was highly probable, in fact, if nobody came to help them. But it wasn’t what was making his blood run cold inside his veins.
Not because something was clearly wrong with this man. Such a reaction was awfully rude. But he didn’t feel fear because this man had almost refused to help them. He wasn’t afraid of him.
He was afraid for him.
The black-haired man was staring at his own hands in a confused terror. What was going through his mind? No one could tell; they were cadavers playing around in a giant cemetery, pretending they could walk and breathe and talk and connect with each other but everything was wrong. They were all lacking something and it was scary, because adults were supposed to have their life together and he couldn’t even have his death together. He felt like a one-day old child in the playground of an evil greater than hope. And despite that, he felt like the most sane person he had met so far. Was this all a nightmare? Was he the only one truly existing in this world? Solipsism surrounded his mind like a cage too small for him to breathe.
He was afraid because this man realized something was wrong with him yet appeared unable to figure out what he had been robbed of, or rather, who he had been before being stolen of such a thing. This stranger’s fear resonated with the feeling of helplessness he had been harboring for two days. An ineffable distress shared in silence between the two lost lambs, stuck in a maze with no light at all. It couldn’t be helped, right?
“They’re coming.” Yukia stated calmly as usual.
Noises coming from behind us, accompanied by the loss of his motivation to keep on trying. Even she didn’t look like she really wanted to survive this. So why was he even…?
A mere vestige of the past when the man stepped in front of them to protect them. That would be the last time he’d see him doing something out of pure kindness; that would also be the last day he’d have seen him show any doubt.
Still, he had seen it all. Otherwise, it would not have felt like a miserable tragedy. Soon, this snake-eyed man would carry on his back the woes of so many lives… and throw it in the air like confetti.
And he would only watch, bystander to such a heartwarming disaster.