Bakura Ryou blinked blearily at his surroundings as he slowly came around to wakefulness. He already knew where he was. The cool stone floor in place of his bed, the endless darkness where his walls should have been, and the unsettling cool draft that seemed to flow throughout the place made it depressingly obvious. He had been thrown back into his own mind again. Why, he didn't know. The last thing he remembered was... was...

Running. Running as swiftly as he could from some unseen terror. Tripping over his own feet in search of sanctuary from the mocking voice in his head. He had blundered into the small chapel, and then... and then what? A voice, a bright light, and then nothing. Then he was alone in this deep darkness. His sigh echoed out into the endless blackness as he got to his feet and started walking. He didn't want to sleep. For once, his mind was restless in this place. The atmosphere could usually lull him to sleep until his other personality was through with their body, but he felt compelled to shake off his drowsiness and explore.

There was a strange, eerie charm to the place. It was alien and warmly familiar at the same time. It was barren, for the most part, but objects would sometimes float past his vision. Dolls seemed to be a common item, hanging limply in the air as they hovered past. Fitting. Everything around him floated, wafted through the empty, scentless air. The world around him was seemed as cold and as sterile as a long night in a hospital room whenever his attention wasn't occupied by a floating bit of rubbish.

He wandered aimlessly through the endless, surreal landscape for what seemed like hours before he caught sight of something very strange: a stationary object. Intrigued, he turned in its direction and headed for it. As he drew nearer to the object, what he recognized now as a tall door, he noticed something else that seemed out of place. The air had gained a certain odor, a clean, warm scent that reminded him of the one vacation he had ever spent at a beach.

The scent's origin was revealed as soon as Ryou reached the door. Sand spilt out from beneath it, though glancing behind the massive door revealed no source. The door itself was an enormous thing of riveted iron, grown over by thin vines and weathered by time. Ryou ran a curious hand over its pitted surface, finding it to be pleasantly warm. He smiled to himself and rested against it, allowing the sand to spill over his sneakers and warm his feet.

"I wonder if it leads anywhere," he mused to himself after several moments, running his hand over the rusted ring that, long ago, must have been used to pull the door ajar. He gave it an experimental tug, and could feel it shift just slightly. A soft smile spread over his pale face. Maybe... maybe he could actually open it?

He dug the heels of his sneakers into the sand and leaned back, tugging at the ring with all his strength. As soon as he leaned, sand started to pour out from beneath the door at twice its previous rate, spilling out into the darkness and intensifying the sandy scent that surrounded the door. Thin beams of light radiated from the seams of the door, causing Ryou to squint against the sudden glare.

After several moments spent yanking and straining against the door, Ryou found himself toppling backward as the door suddenly swung open. A wave of heat rushed past him, stirring the sand. Once the sand settled, Ryou opened his eyes with a gasp. Beyond the door, a vast landscape of sand and cornflower blue sky stretched out into nowhere, just as the darkness had. As if compelled by instinct alone, he stood, dusted himself off, and stepped into the strange world beyond the door.

His heart stopped for a split second as the massive door slammed shut behind him. The door faded into nothingness just as the realization that he had stepped into the middle of a desert struck him.

He glanced up at the glaring sun, wincing. What had seemed like a warm and inviting place when he had spent untold hours in the chilly confines of the darkness had instantly become hostile and frightening. He swallowed, shivering in spite of the climate, and reminded himself that he would be able to leave as soon as the voice was through with the body. In the meantime, though, he would have to find some sort of shelter from the sun.

With one final glance back at where the door had previously been, he trudged off into the endless expanse of sand. He tried in vain to determine which direction he had walked off in. The blazing sun was nearer to one side of the horizon than the other, and it was certainly hot enough to be late in the afternoon. Ryou trembled at the sudden memory of the few nights he had spent on site with his father. He had spent them curled tightly in the itchy blanket he'd been provided with to ward off the sudden chill that invaded the desert once the sun disappeared.

"West, then," he murmured, trying to push thoughts of the chilled night out of his mind. If he traveled in one direction long enough, he should find something, anything. So he trudged on, west, toward the setting sun.

Before long, perhaps an hour or two, the novelty of the world beyond the iron door had worn off. Ryou's hair and clothing had plastered to his body, and with the sun rapidly sinking and its light and heat disappearing just as quickly, he was in danger of spending the night in wet, sticky clothes. Even worse, the long trek had exhausted him. He licked his dry lips and sighed, looking up at the darkening sky. Several stars and the faint silhouette of a crescent moon shown against the deep blue backdrop that he had found so lovely and inviting earlier that day.

He let out a soft sigh, wondering just how long the voice in his head had retained control of his body. He really had no concept of how time progressed while he was in the confines of his own mind, since he had usually slept or interacted with his other, as he had during his last game of Monster World. His eyes widened as he came to a sudden realization. He hadn't felt any connection with the Ring's voice since he had stepped through the door. What if he'd been locked away? What if the door had been some clever trap left for him to keep him captive forever while the other Bakura stole his body? Ryou felt his knees buckle slightly. How could he have been so foolish? He had been so enthralled at the childish notion of discovering something wonderful beyond that door that he had failed to consider the dangers the spirit in the Ring may have set in place. He crumpled onto his knees, shuddering and utterly miserable.

As if to spite him, the desert sun descended even more rapidly past the horizon as Ryou sat in place, immobilized by the horror that had overcome him. When he finally came (mostly) to his senses, the desert around him had turned dark and surprisingly cool, and the stars turned to bright sparks against a blue-black backdrop. He staggered to his feet, blinking against the darkness and praying that he could find shelter as quickly as possible. If his eyes were to be believed, he could see foot hills in the distance. If he could reach the hills quickly enough, he may be able to find some form of natural shelter.

A cold wind picked up as he trudged along, quickly whipping the perspiration from his clothes and leaving him shivering and hugging his arms to his chest. Ryou stared straight ahead, trying to keep the hills in sight and in his mind. Of course, his resolve could do nothing to stave off the encroaching, deepening cold that pierced him with every little gust of wind.

When the moon had climbed to the very top of the sky, Ryou began to wonder just how far away the foot hills had to be for him not to have reached them. He bit back a sob as another wave of hopelessness struck him. His entire body ached, his mouth and throat were dry and sore, and he felt as though needles of ice were continually piercing his skin. He reached up to wipe moisture from the corners of his eyes, grimacing when he realized to late that a few grains of sand had clung to his fingertips.

Ryou sobbed, allowing the tears to fall down his cheeks and wash the sand from his eyes. The longer he remained in the desert, the more apparent it became that he would die before the voice allowed him to use his body again. He'd never go to school again, never see his friends or talk to Yuugi-kun again. Somehow, he was going to waste away in this horrible place, and the Ring's voice would keep his body. He put one foot forward, then the other, mechanically continuing his doomed quest and crying silently, trapped in his thoughts.

Several minutes passed before he could compose himself long enough to pay attention to his surroundings again. Something had changed. He blinked the last of his tears away and raised his head, looking, listening. Yes, something about the sound of the desert had changed as he walked. There was a new sound, constant and subtle; a soft rushing sound. His chapped lips twitched into a mad smile when he finally put a word to the sound.

"River," he mouthed to himself, breaking into a stumbling run in the direction of the sound. "Got to get to the river. Follow the river."

The sound grew louder as Ryou ran on, and he could make out the faint, form of the banks and plants along the river's edge in the distance. As preoccupied as he was with the river, something eventually caught Ryou's attention long enough to make him stop dead in his tracks. Off to his right, maybe one hundred feet away, he could see the warm glow of an open fire, and the vague form of a human being crouched before it.

His knees trembled. A person, a real, live person. Before he could stop to question just what anyone else would be doing in his mind, Ryou took off running for the light, blisters and battered muscles be damned. The figure beside the fire stood and turned toward him, silhouetted by the fire behind him.

"Help!" Ryou cried, tripping over his own feet several times as he scampered toward the warmth and light of the fire.

He tripped again just as he managed to blunder into the light, falling against the stranger. All of a sudden, it felt as if whatever energy he had retained were draining out of the soles of his feet. He went totally limp when strong arms wrapped gingerly around him, the only thing keeping him on his feet.

"Please," he murmured. "Please, please help me."