?: Well finally. I was thinking I'd have to work with the crap-shoot my original debut piled onto me. Toriano does not own Maximum Ride, any merchandise affiliated, nor an actual update schedule he can keep to.

Realm of Realization

It's a dream. Just a dream. That's all it is. It can hurt me, but only if I let it.

"Realizing that it's just a dream is the first step to waking up." I heard that somewhere. Don't remember where. I don't really trust that, or believe what it implies. What I think is that, realizing that it's just a dream... that's the first step to letting it continue.

So I let go. It's just a dream.

Suddenly I'm on my feet, running. Running... through trees. They're everywhere. I know this forest. I haven't seen it before, never in my life, but I know this forest. I know what happened here. Somewhere deep down, I know; I remember everything. But it's a dream. A dream I recognize. I know what has happened here... and what will happen here.

I'm running. Something screams in the woods around me. I know from the sound that it's not me. It isn't human. It isn't even alive. I hear tearing, growling, footsteps pounding the root-infested, leaf-covered ground, everywhere, nowhere. Am I running away from something? No. Not something. I know exactly what's chasing me.

And I'm not running away from it.

Pop! Pop-pop!

That isn't the sound of guns I hear; the things that are after me don't use guns. Too loud. Traceable.


That's the sound of my traps going off, one after the other in a chain effect. Like rain. I smile at the screeches and moans that echo through my forest -these are my enemies, and they are dying. They are scared, and fear my superior firepower. They are on the retreat, to regroup. The screeching and screaming grow softer and softer with each passing moment, and finally I can rest.

My feet slow down, slower, slower to jogging, to an even stop. Suddenly they're ice-cold with a pins-and-needles sensation and I sit back against a tree to wait for it to fade. That's what I get for going it barefoot again... but there's nothing I can do about that. All I have are these hacky-sack hospital clothes -a T-shirt and shorts- that I've been wearing for who knows how long. I don't have shoes yet.

It's a dream. Just a dream.

My head suddenly hurts, and sadly, the first thought in my mind is 'Delta pressure waves? I stayed still too long.' I'm back to running in seconds, but now I'm not so good at dodging the trees. 'Ow... ow... God I hope I don't trip into a pit like this...'

My ears are ringing. Louder. Louder. Closer. I look behind me, up into the sky, and to my sides with bleary eyes. Nothing. There's nothing there. But that's not possible. Something's messing me up-

Oh. Dear me. My nose is... bleeding. 'Why is my blood black? Isn't blood supposed to be run red?' I fall to my knees.

"Hemoglobin." I- what? "That's what makes blood red. In humans, at least. Says a lot about you, doesn't it?" Somebody's talking to me... impossible. There's no way I could be hearing anything over the ringing in my ears. But I hear it. I'm wiping the blood off my face, hoping the warmth leaking from my eyes isn't the same stuff.

Dream... it's just... it's just a... It's time.

"Don't you think you should help them?" My head snaps up, and there's a shadow ahead of me.

'No,' I think, and the pain in my head lessens. The ringing fades to a sharp hum. 'Not a shadow. Two. There's two of them. Not shadows.'

I don't know how I made it over to them. Maybe I crawled. Maybe somebody helped me up, and moved my body. The next thing I know, I'm almost on top of them, and I see...

Two kids curled up on the ground, unconscious. They look a little like me, I guess. Nearly the same skin color. The same clothes, except smaller. They're smaller than me. 'Younger, too,' I think. The pain in my head is gone, and the blood-flow from my nose is slowing down. 'Why are they here?'

It's time... to... It's time to...

"They're trying to get away, just like you are. Won't you help them? They can't get away without someone to help them. Why shouldn't it be you?" That voice... I should recognize it. I know I remember it, but I should be able to put a face to it, a name. Shouldn't I?