Chapter 10: My Inner Heart

"Where am I?"

I found myself in a creepy forest. This one was defiantly wasn't the one I passed through with Robert and Ben earlier. From the looks of it, the woods seemed to be in the midst of mid-fall, not spring. The leaves had left the trees and joined the ground. Plus, it was daytime with extremely cloudy skies. The springs I've experience were almost always sunny.

There was one detail that was the same: this place, whatever it was, popped out from a horror movie. I almost half expected to find a swamp or a lake to magically appear through the thick fog that covered this new land I was now walking in.

I began to wonder how I could have possibly ended up here. The last thing I remembered was opening the gates at the castle. Hopefully I had opened them in time for Robert and Ben to escape.

"I'm probably just dreaming!" I exclaimed. "I couldn't suddenly just pop here out of nowhere." I nervously glanced around. The forest was eerily quiet. "Right?"

No matter, I continued walking. Maybe I wasn't the only person in this place. Maybe there was a cabin was nearby. Don't most woods have one for campers during the winter? Like a winter cabin?

Amazingly, a few minutes later, I found that I wasn't scared anymore. Usually, a normal human being would be in survival mode. However, I was calm as if I was walking in my own home. I was comfortable treading through the trees, like I've been here before. My instincts began to lead me in a direction even though I was sure I have never been here before. What was going on? Were dreams supposed to be like this?

A sound stopped me in my tracks. I leaned forward to get a better hearing of the noise. It was faint but it sounded like… crying. I leapt for joy. So I'm not alone!

I started running towards the weeping person. Maybe they were lost just like I was. Maybe we could find a way out together! I ran faster.

A part of me wondered who the person might be. I hoped it wasn't a creepy man. Usually those encounters don't end well, especially for girls.

The closer I got, the louder the crying got. Wow. This kid must be really lonely.

"Hold on!" I shouted as I sprinted towards them. "I'm coming!"

The air slowly became thicker. I was soon forced to lower how fast I ran. I then realized that it wasn't the air that was slowing down. It was bad vibes coming from where the crying was. I felt it as it ate at me. How sad was this person?

Despite the horrible feeling I now felt, I was determined to finish my search. Still, the closer I got, the sadness and despair became unbearable.

Soon, I was forced to stop to catch my breath against a tree trunk. God, I hope I could reach this person in time-

I saw a drop fall to the ground. Where did that come from? Is it raining?

It took me a minute to realize I was crying. Why was I crying? Was it because of the person's intense emotions that were radiating everywhere? Why were these emotions affecting me?

I took in a deep breath and began running again. I had no idea where I was going. The only direction I had was that there was something pulling at my heart. It was like it was telling me where to go. God, I seriously hope I could get there-

BAM! I hit an invisible wall. I was knocked to the ground. I instantly tried to get back on my feet but heavy emotions weighed down on me. It was engulfing me and making it harder to breathe. I could hardly move my arms. With much difficultly I sat up.

Through a space between trees, I saw a small clearing. It was certainly small but as I crawled towards it, I noticed that it was circular. Weirdly, the sky started darkening even more and soon, it looked like a big bad thunderstorm was on its way. Although the air around the circle changed, the inside of it was still lighter. It reminded me of a spotlight on stage during a play. Why only that spot?

"Hello?" I called. The answer was sobs. It sounded like a little girl.

I finally made my way to the very edge of the circle. Standing there was agonizing. All the vibes and emotions was centered around a little figure wearing a white dress hunched over, crying. Their hands were clenching the opposite arms so hard that they started to bleed. The sight broke my heart. I found myself bawling too. My heart felt like someone had put a ten pound weight on it. My head was spinning and breathing was harder than before.

Thoughts immediately started zipping around in my mind. How I wasn't like the other girls at my school. How I was such a fail at life. How I had only one good friend even though I didn't deserve one. I was only weighing Sharon down. I could literally see everyone's faces surrounding me, laughing, staring, whispering to each other.

Moments later, I found myself sobbing like the kid. There was a connection. We both shared the same pain and sorrow. But how was that possible? I barely knew them until now. And why now when I cross this… wall?

"Hey, kid?" I said.

I hoped that if I could end their pain, maybe I could end mine too.

That was when I noticed that there was no grass here in the circle. The trees on the edge were dead and withered away. Not only did their strong emotion was effecting me but the life here as well. No wonder nothing seemed to live here! I had to put a stop to this.

I crawled to the figure. "Hey. It's okay." The words had a hard time coming from my mouth.

"It'll be alright." I grunted but a little voice inside my head screamed that it won't be. It'll never be.

I stopped. I was only two feet away now. The weight was too much to bear. I had to stop this… before something bad happens. But could I, before I have a mental breakdown like them?

"Help….. Me….." said the little person in front of me.

"What?" I gasped. "Help you?"

"Yes." The crying stopped. "Isn't that why you came?"

The little figure lifted its head.

I scrambled away, terrified to death of not what but who had been crying all along.

"How… how…" I couldn't get the words out. Sitting before me was a younger version of me. Me from six or seven years ago. What was me, or she, doing here?

"Help. Me." Mini-me said again.

One question was answered. I realized why I was being affected by her emotions. Technically, they were my emotions too. However, this felt a thousand times worse than reality. Why?

"I'm sorry." I muttered. "I can't or don't know how to…" I tried to move away from her but of course, I couldn't.

At that moment, my young self crawled slowly to me. She moved like a slug. Like the whole world was sitting on her shoulders. Was I really like this back then?

Minutes had become like an hour by the time she reached me. She stretched out a trembling hand towards me.

"Um… Hi?" I said.

Her freezing hand touch my cheek. From there, a blinding pain went throughout my body. It knocked out all the voices but only for a split second. Then they suddenly came rushing back like a Metro train, even louder and meaner than before.

I found myself curled up in the fetal position. I couldn't stop weeping. Tears were flowing fivers down my cheeks. My mind was going haywire in madness and despair. What has she done to me?

I tried to search for her so I could ask her. I couldn't find her. She had disappeared without a trace. Where had she gone?

"Great," I thought. "I'm stuck here forever. With no way out. I was alone in this…" I looked around. The sky seemed only to get darker. "dark and lonely world. No wonder nothing lives here. They might have to go through this."

A voice proved me wrong. "Welcome to the Inner Heart, Catherine." A man said. He had a middle-aged voice but it was soft. A real antagonist movie voice was what he had.

"Inner Heart?" I rasped.

I weakly picked up my head to find the source of the sound. To my left, a dark figure stood at the edge of the circle. The darkening shadows made the man look like a demon in full form. Maybe he was a demon.

"Who are you?" I croaked. My voice sounded pathetic! I hated this.

"My name isn't important compared to your situation."

Situation? Was he talking about my position or the whole accident of me dropping into another time period?

"Where am I again?"

I realized that if I ever had a chance to get out of here, it would be with this guy. Unlike me, maybe he remembers how he got here.

I eyed him closely. He looked suspicious but I was growing desperate. Really desperate. I didn't know how long I could hold onto my sanity. If I could hold onto it.

"You are in the Inner Heart."

"What is the Inner Heart?"

"The Inner Heart was a term created by Yuu Watase for the manga, Alice 19th . The meaning is literal. You are inside your heart. In a spiritual sense of course."

Inside my own heart. It made sense! It was the reason for the mini-me and why I felt like this. I am in my own heart and these are my feelings. But isn't mangas like Japanese comics? Why am I in something from a Japanese comic?

"You always had this hurt." The man went on. "This sadness, grief, and misery. All these unnecessary emotions were place here by the people around you. Your classmates, family, even the person you call your friend."

I knew he was right. In fact, despite his creepiness, I was beginning to like him. It was like he knew me. He understood how I felt. Maybe I could trust this guy.

A wild anger came out of nowhere. It welled up from inside of me. This whole thing was unfair! Why did I have to be sent to a totally different time period and left there! I certainly didn't deserve it! If anyone deserved it, it was GiGi Clarkis!

My anger began to make me cry even more. Why me? Why me? How was I going to get out of this? How? I was left with no answers and all alone. What do I do?

"There. There." he said calmly. The man was next to me. He pulled me into his arms and held me tight. When did he come over?

"I can help you."

Finally! Those were the words I was waiting so long for!

"You can?"

He chuckled as he brushed a hair out of my eyes."Yes, my dear. When you physically get hurt, chemicals called endorphins try to numb the pain. But this pain is something different. It can't go away naturally. You have only two options."

I sniffled. "What are they?"

"Conventionaly, the only thing that could save you is yourself. However, in the state you are in, I doubt you can do that."

I didn't know where he was going with this. "Okay… what is last thing that could save me?"

" I can. I can take you away from here. You don't deserve to be here, Catherine. You should be at peace. Happy. You should be at a place you belong."

Once again, the strange man was right. I should be happy and somewhere else. The place I belonged: my own time zone!

"Okay, what did you have in mind?" I asked.

"Well," he turned his face toward his left hand. In that palm was a double-edged dagger.

"No way! Suicide? You're kidding right?"

Even though I couldn't see his face thanks to the jet black robe with the hood drawn over his head, his silent told me he was serious.

"It's the only way. I mean, unless you want to stay here."

I drew in a big breath. He had a point. I didn't want to stay here. Maybe this was truly the only way out of this mess. Maybe I had to end it, before the whole lot became even worse. Plus, who would notice beside Sharon? Everyone probably thinks I'm dead and this probably isn't a dream. Both me being in England and me being here right now.

I don't even know if Sharon is alive. What happens if she isn't? Am I going to let myself suffer for the sake of a person that is probably dead?

I gave my answer by reaching for the hilt. My fingers gripped the cold metal. As if to encourage me on my pathetic but last option, the voices in my head grew louder. I drew the dagger closer to me.

"NO!" screamed a thunderous voice in my head. It was louder than all the others. So loud that I dropped the weapon and gripped my throbbing head.

"Don't do it!" the person said. It was a male but familiar..

"What's wrong?" the my savior said.

POOF! A little black bird popped from thin air and appeared by his side.

"Master," a cute female sound came from the bird. She sounded seductive but a bit more like a cute flake. "I have a message for you."

The man waved her away. "Not now, Miranda. I am busy at the moment. But stay! I might have a message for you to send to someone."

Miranda saw me and hopped to the ground. She made her way closer. Her head tilted in every way with each hop, as if to inspect me.

"What's wrong with her? Don't tell me the message is about her!" she said.

The man was now watching me writhing in agony from my throbbing head. The voice was clearing the other voices from my mind but they too were putting up a fight.

"Can't you tell?" he said. "It's Wizard Ewan."

Miranda scooted back in disgust. "That man? What does he want with her? What is he doing to her?"

The master of the bird shook his head slowly. "I don't know."

"What do you want?" I screamed to the man in my head. As far as I could tell, he wasn't helping me at all. He was hurting me more.

A swirl of white clouds circled around me. When the master and his pet saw it, they started moving away.

"No! Wait! No go! Don't leave me here…." But they drifted away rapidly. Soon, they were just in front the edge to the forest.

"Callie." There was that voice again. What could he possibly want?

"This is getting interesting…" said the far-away man. He was so far off now that I had to strain to hear him. What did he find interesting?

"Callie!" The voice boomed louder.

I winced.

"What?" I snapped.

"Don't do it!"

I wished that I could roll my eyes at that moment. "Is that all you have to say?" I asked.

"No. Don't be a fool. Sharon is alive and well. She is searching for you too. Suicide will only bring you two further away from each other than you already are."

I opened my eyes and looked at the knife on the ground. Sharon was alive? But how? If she actually is, where is she? Is she in England too?

"How can I be sure that you are telling the truth?" I whispered.

There was a momentary pause before: "How do you know I am not?"

I didn't answer.

"I can help you, Callie."

"How can I trust you?"

"Well, I helped you before, remember? What makes you think I can't now? Besides, that man and his bird over there don't provide any better options."

I peered to where the man and Miranda were watching me. The voice had a point, suicide wasn't a good option. Plus, he did help before a couple days ago in my room where as that other guy didn't do anything so far. What else did I have to lose?

"Fine." I said.

The man heard me. "Fine? Fine to what?" He stood and began to rush to me. As he bounded toward me, I felt a strange sense of peace. The man in my head was chanting "Na Sara Lotis Raan."

The other man's hand was out and I could see a strange symbol of a hourglass in a circle begin to glow fiery orange. There was a look of hatred in his eyes that said, "You're not getting away, Catherine!" I couldn't hear the other words he was mouthing because meanwhile, all the emotions faded away. The last time I saw the man, he was a foot away.