My first thought was that it was too bright. I was facing the sun directly, so despite it looking like sunset had began, the rays forced me to brace my eyes with an arm as they adjusted.
That was my second thought. The train car made it's characteristic noise as wheels rolled on the track. Or, at least I think it was a train car. It certainly reminded me of an urban metro station, just above ground.
It was empty for the most part aside from me. I counted exactly 18 seats including my own. The two seats at the end seemed to be taken, but I couldn't make either of the people out.
One seat seemingly had a living shadow on it, in the vague silhouette of a person. It was translucent, but it didn't have any features beyond that. The other, sitting in opposite to it, on my row, was even stranger. With every passing shadow of what I could only assume to be streetlights in front of the track, it changed appearance completely.
One second it was a middle-aged woman with dark hair and eyes, wearing a sweater and jeans. The next it was a bald, old man wearing a checkerboard-pattern light blue shirt and khaki pants. The next a young girl in a hospital gown with an IV drip in her left arm. A short, fat black man wearing a business suit. An Asian bodybuilder in a tank top. An old blind woman with a walking cane.
The characters cycled like a mirage, and no matter how many times I tried to ask, no words came to me. One of them lingered a bit longer than the others, an older looking woman in a blue dress with a newborn infant in her hands. She turned to me and spoke:
"Will you be joining us soon?"
I tried replying again, but nothing came. My mind was blank. The woman resumed staring at the shadow in front of her, ignorant of me once more as the cycling began anew.
The sun glared down on me again, and I could only squint as my eyes watered. They felt as if I had been taken from pitch darkness and thrown into broad daylight.
Sounds bore down on me once more. But they were not the droning, grating whine of steel meeting steel. They were natural, if voluminous themselves. I'd heard them differently myself, but I could still recognize the distinct song of cicadas in the background.
Something was horribly wrong.
It could've been the sun, clearly shining down on me directly instead of through a window. It could've been the cicadas, ones I'd never heard before in my life suddenly far too plentiful in numbers based on volume alone. It could've been the hard, metallic support I was sitting on instead of a bed, and the fact that I was upright instead of laying down.
The strange tightness in my limbs. The ocean breeze on my skin. The smell of putrefaction hovering close by. Any number of things could've told me nothing was right, but my groggy brain had trouble processing it all as I arose on shaky legs.
My eyes cleared, and I could finally see. See something that made no sense.
The landscape was mountainous, no surprises there. But it wasn't the mountains I was familiar with. Turning around, I was greeted with a wide expanse of blue and more importantly, ruined, half-sunk buildings, with a city farther off which I did not recognize.
I could only blink dumbly in response.
The other one had been the most vivid I had ever experienced. Certain dreams stuck out to me, and I could remember most of what happened in them, but never did I feel as conscious or aware as in that one. This had to be the same thing.
So I just stood there, gazing at the admittedly beautiful view, wondering when it would all end. I wondered if my lucid thoughts should've begun impacting the dream by now. That something had to start happening.
In some demented way, I was right.
From the seas in front of me, a huge collection of black and bone white shapes rose, towering over everything in the horizon, until it eventually became a vaguely humanoid torso, and soon that torso became a whole body. And in no time that body turned it's head toward me as it seemed to survey the area.
Sachiel, the Third Angel, the Covering of God, had emerged from the depths.
I had no time to be surprised as a thousand shells of ammunition went screaming towards the Angel of Water, peppering it's sides with just as many explosions. I could only fall down to the ground in panic, and then something else became readily apparent to me: pain.
Dreams did not cause me pain: at most I could experience a falling sensation that followed into the waking world, making me jump in my bed like I was slipping off a ledge. But never pain. Not like this.
I could only stare up in dumbstruck horror as Sachiel was bombarded with enough manmade hellfire to pulverize a small town and walked through it all with absolutely no care, as a realization dawned on me: this may not be a dream at all. Or if it was, it certainly didn't feel like it.
Everything was too vivid, too weighty. None of the ebb and flow of a sleeping fantasy was there. Sachiel's steps thundered, sending small tremors to reach me, even though the monster itself was kilometers away.
And there I sat, my brain overloaded with thoughts about everything that was happening, to a point where I didn't even hear the unmarked black van approaching behind me. Nor the numerous black suit-clad men that stepped out.
When they got near me, I could see some of them had guns, while some did not.
For what, the Angel? Or are they expecting a big fight from one person?
That was the last thing I could think about however as I stared back at Sachiel again, as it began moving further inwards on land, passing through the city and wrecking buildings absentmindedly. More explosions, more blinding light, but I stopped seeing any of that when the agents appeared directly in front of me.
I don't know if I could've done anything in normal circumstances, given they were armed and likely not taking any shit from some kid, but right then and there, I could only blink dumbly as I was practically dragged back into their vehicle. They exchanged words between each-other, but I barely heard any of it. I was too stuck thinking about everything I'd just seen and how this was REAL.
I kept pinching myself until my arm became red and swollen. Nothing.
And that was how I stayed for the remainder of the ride. None of the agents bothered to talk to me, or explain anything. They didn't even talk to one-another, the closest they got being murmurs into radios affixed to their suits.
They did start talking when a second Sun popped into the horizon just as the first was going down however.
Screams erupted all around me as the world became an inferno of noise and light, and not for the first time today I wondered whether I was going insane or not. The wave of pain, heat and force that hit me afterward didn't do much to reassure me as the car was sent flying like a smacked insect.
My mouth was agape, but I wasn't sure if I was screaming or not. The ringing was too strong to make anything out as we crashed and everything went black.
I didn't know how long I spent on the train this time. All I knew was the passage of time had slowed to a crawl. I had to have been on here longer than before...not that I could really tell when "before" was.
Those same figures were still there, still doing the same thing. I could swear the shifting one would stop and glance at me once in a while, but otherwise it kept cycling as it always did. My mouth opened many times, but whatever words I had made in my mind to say seemed to disappear the second I did that.
So eventually I stopped trying and kept my mouth shut, simply staring into the land beyond the windows of the train car. Yet, no matter how adjusted my eyes grew to the light, the landscape was always hidden from me in a fog of orange.
Then, something changed.
Abruptly, the train started slowing down, before coming to a complete halt. I was jolted in my seat, yet remained there for whatever reason. I was not compelled at all to leave the strange place when the doors opened. I just sat there as they let in a new face.
He was a man of about average height and scrawny build, though that seemed to have to do more with his age than anything. He looked easily to be in his 60s, yet despite carrying a cane he didn't seem to need it, standing up perfectly straight as he went to take his seat. His was dressed elegantly in a somewhat worn out black and white suit with a tie and black shoes.
His face was non-distinct, yet there was something about his eyes that unnerved me. He gently walked over to the end of the train car, apparently entirely ignorant of me and the other two entities inhabiting the compartment, and sat down. He took a newspaper out of his jacket, and began reading it, having chosen a seat next to the silhouette, facing away from the sun.
I stood there, gazing at the mismatched trio of strange fellow travelers in this random train car, as it started back up, going to places only God knew.
"Are you sure about this?"
The woman sighed as she closed her briefcase, picking it up and running her hands through her hair.
"Enoch is our life's work. My life's work. I can't give it up now."
The man simply tapped his cigarette, the ash falling into an unseen tray.
"Not even for her?"
"Him," she said, turning around. "They're going to be a him."
He could only smile sadly in response.
"So, I'm guessing they play some part into this as well, huh?"
The woman grabbed a hold of the briefcase, taking one last look at the man, whose face was mostly shadows now. She sighed softly, closing her eyes for a brief moment, before staring dully back at him.
"You were always a great colleague Maxwell. Shame you were such a shit man."
And with those words alone, she left through the door he knew she'd never return from. He could only stare at her through it's closed borders, as if wanting to burn the door through with his eyes, and do something, anything to get her back.
But he didn't. He stood there, crushing the cigarette into the tray.
It was barely even lit.
I awoke slowly, vision returning to me in layers. First blurry shapes, then colors, and finally the full picture. Not that any of those layers mattered much.
The light was ethereal and unnaturally saturated in this place. Everything had a washed out quality to it. I didn't help that I didn't know where this was. It was just a large white room, with several windows to one side, a door to the other, and an IV drip connecting to my arm by the bed I was in.
I could've questioned why I was here. I could've questioned what those dreams here. I could've questioned why I was in this fucking universe. But instead one singular aspect of the room drew me to it immediately.
I...don't recognize this ceiling.
Author's notes: Something...different. And definitely out of my comfort zone. Expect this to be one of the few if not the last author's notes segments for this fic. Obviously, everything belongs to it's respective creators and you can clearly see where I'm drawing inspiration from.