A field of lilies encompassed Roxas and his love as they gleefully pranced under an azure sky. His eyes bore a hole through hers as he stared at his love, like a lion ready to pounce. But alas, her face was but a blur. The color Mr. Sun reflected off her hair changed faster than a chameleon in hiding. From brown to blonde it changed back and forth dizzying him until finally, it settled, and a flaxen aura emitted from her locks. Now he knew in his heart, which girl it was who had stolen it. Her hair became brighter, and brighter, to the point where he had to turn away and close his eyes. The light kept shining forth until suddenly, everything became black...
At this Roxas awoke, but he could still see a light trained on his eyelids. Like a fool, he decided to take a peek and a beam drilled right into his cornea. White light flooded his eyes as his pupils constricted and a single tear grazed his cheek.
"What is that!" Roxas groaned loudly, blinking.
When he regained his vision, he saw Axel with a Maglite in hand, grinning ear to ear.
"Man you are weak." He said putting away his pocket sun.
" 'Ancient Chinese secwet! Stand on head while watching movie make me stay up fowever. You be sleep in 5 minutes, I stay up for 5 years! HAHAHAHA!' Isn't that what you said!?" Axel bellowed.
"Whatever..." Roxas said drearily. He drifted back to sleep, perfectly content with his position on the couch, while Axel dropped down into a red recliner, ready to enjoy another movie.
"Well you're gonna crash eventually." Roxas said matter-of-factly as they walked to the testing center a few days later.
"You've been up for 3 days. I know you're feeling it. I just hope you don't pass out during the test."
"You underestimate me Roxas. I feel fine…" Axel said, as a cool breeze blew across his face refreshing him. Only partially unbeknownst to Roxas however, Axel's demeanor was a complete and total facade. Stars and little black spots constantly zipped across his eyes, obscuring his vision. He even saw a premonition or two; flying cars were the future and he would in fact cure cancer, despite Roxas' objections. After what seemed like years to Axel, they finally reached the testing center. Inside was a glass door, separating the supervisor's desk from the test takers on the other side. After giving their information and receiving instructions from "The Man" as Axel liked to call him, they sat at their individual cubicles and began their exams.
"Alright, let's do this." Axel said prepping himself. He looked down and began to read the first question. "A sample of Helium at 30 degrees Celsi-"
"Woah!" Axel blurted out. He surveyed the room, suddenly aware of what he had unwittingly shouted. To his relief, and dismay, only the proctor was looking at him, pen and pencil held out threateningly. Axel was well aware of the repercussions, for cheating, so he simply mouthed a 'sorry' and momentarily turned back to his test. His pupils flickered left and right, looking for what flashed in the corner of his eyes. After seeing nothing out of the ordinary, his chest began to return to its slow rhythmic beat.
"It's cool, it's cool." He whispered to himself, trying to console his nerves. "I'm just a little tired and anxious for this test. I'll get some rest afterwords. Just gotta stop talking to myself and finish this test. OK… The Helium is-" Axel stopped mid-sentence and froze in his seat. Something else had flashed across his eyes, only this time it was much more vivid. Instantly, every horror movie monstrosity he had ever seen blazed across his mind's eye and halted at a tall, spider-like witch with buttons in place of her eyes. She danced across his brain, tormenting him, and although he knew she wasn't real, he couldn't help but feel she was right behind him waiting for him to turn around so she could pierce his pupils with her soul-stealing needle and entrap him forever in her world of pseudo-pleasure. His eyes locked down on his paper, too fearful to turn his head, even an inch.
This is ridiculous. He thought to himself. She isn't real, I'm not in danger. Just turn around and you'll see she's not there. I'll close my eyes and open them on the count of five. One, two, three, four, five… Wait, I think I counted too fast OK, one, two, three, four….. Let me start over real quick, one-
Suddenly, his chair lurched forward, slamming his stomach into the desk.
"Oof! What the he-AH!" He exclaimed as he felt what seemed to be a metallic spider crawl up his back and mingle with his flaming locks. Panicking, he ran his hand through his hair looking for it but it disappeared. After calming down he realized that he had been yelling and looked towards the test proctor, but she was no longer there. In fact, as his eyes glazed across the room, he slowly began to realize he was all alone. He stood up and looked around; everyone was gone except for him.
"Must've fallen asleep." ,he thought aloud. "But there's gotta be someone here…" He gazed at the test and, realizing he'd be getting a zero regardless, he decided to take it with him and leave the center. He walked out the room and down the long hallway of eerily flickering lights. In the window he saw it was now night, and the moon was in full bloom.
How long was I out. He thought. The test was at 11 this morning.
Along the walls, sculpted out of a mix of sand and clay, were twisted statues of little boys and girls, all with nothing but buttons to view the world through. Axel quickened his pace, trying to reach the door. The more he walked, the longer the hallway stretched, and the further the door became from his reach.
"How am I supposed to get out of here!" He exclaimed. He turned back towards the window in hopes of exiting through it, only to find it barred shut. His vocals danced in frustration, as he bolted back towards the testing room, but it also grew farther with every step. His neck whipped back and he noticed something peculiar. The door, which previously had been almost too difficult to see, was now only a few feet from him. He started for it and once again the walls stretched and twisted, pulling it away from him.
"Oh, OK. I see how it is." He said smugly. Axel turned around once more and walked away from the exit, in hopes that when he turned around, it would be close enough for him to open and walk through.
Should have walked far enough by now, he thought. I'll turn around in 5, 2, 3, 4...uhhhh. Ok. Now!
Axel glanced over his shoulder and sighed with relief. The door, was within reach.
"Finally! I can leave. This is like some kind of twisted game or something."
Axel rolled and pocketed his test and reached for the handle. Looking down he saw that it had become what resembled a small metallic nest comprised of sewing needles and stayed his hand.
"Why so hesitant?"
A silky, female voice whispered behind him. His heart jumped and goosebumps ran down his back. He dared not look back, and instead quickly grasped the handle, cutting his hand.
He bellowed in pain and drew his hand back, watching as blood flowed from his hand across his shredded skin.
"You're blood will do. Thank you sweetie."
She blew a kiss in his ear, and he felt her warm sweet breath on his neck. His heart fluttered and his face flushed at her voice and close proximity. He nervously turned around and was instantly met with a passionate kiss. The girl had long black hair, reaching down her waist, and scarlet eyes.
He felt her bosom on him as she deepened the kiss and he happily reciprocated. As he prepared to fully embrace the girl of his dreams, she suddenly broke the kiss, and pulled a folded piece of parchment from her back pocket. Panting, she unfurled it to reveal what looked to be a contract.
"Axel, I need you to sign this." She said holding it up.
"Huh?" Axel drawled, still feeling light-headed. "What am I signing?"
"I promise" She said ignoring his question. "after you sign it we can continue where we left off."
Axel looked at her dubiously and held his unmangled hand out for the paper. She handed it to him, and he glazed over the form. Confused, he gave it second look, this time, much more carefully. As he looked over the paper he started to realize he couldn't read what was on it. He blinked and rubbed his eyes but nothing helped. He couldn't make sense of what he was looking at.
"I'm not gonna sign this." He stated a bit frustrated. "I can't even read it!"
"Axel please!" She pleaded, looking towards the ground. "Please, if you don't sign it she'll punish me. She'll hurt me Axel! She'll make me stay here! After you sign it you can hold me and embrace me, just like you want, like what I want. And then we can leave. We can't leave until you sign it. It's her rules. Her world."
The more Tifa spoke, the more frightened Axel became. He wondered who "she" was and as he was about to ask, Tifa's tears stopped him short. He reached over and placed an arm around her, still grasping the contract and letting his bloody hand fall to the side. She sobbed into his chest and held him tight, wrapping her arms around his back.
"Axel, do you trust me?" She said with a muffled voice.
He let out a long sigh and answered her.
"Of course I do."
"Then please Axel…"
Axel gazed at the contract once more, and conceded.
"Got a pen?" He asked her with a light smirk.
"You're blood will do." She said shortly.
Axel's heart stopped. Fear encapsulated him as sweat began to accumulate on his back and armpits.
"I'm not signing this." He said with panic. He made to leave but her grip on him grew tighter.
"But you have to Axel." Tifa stated. He could feel her fingers become slimmer and longer as her nails grew further across his back. "Remember. Her world. Her rules."
She looked up at him, scarlet were her eyes no more. In place of them were jade buttons, gleaming with greed. He stuffed the contract in his pocket, pushed her away, and bolted for the door, but it was once again on the opposite end of the hallway. And the further he ran from her, the faster the door slid out of his reach.
"Not this again!" He screamed. Picking up speed, he sprinted, hoping to at least escape from the fiend. When he could no longer see the door in front of him, he stopped and caught his breath, now feeling fatigued.
Looking back, the witch was gone and he could hear nothing but his wheezing lungs and throbbing chest. Apprehensively, he walked back, pulling the exit closer to him so he could leave. Just as he began his trek, Axel heard scuttling overhead and looked up. The ceiling was unbelievably tall and black with darkness from which glowed two unblinking, green buttons. Axel made eye contact, and stood petrified before them. The eyes waned away, and the demon dashed down the wall and towards Axel. Her eyes were focused on one thing: the contract. Fear struck Axel at the sight of her. A ghastly hand reached for his back pocket and Axel pulled out the paper and ran for the test room.
"Give it to back!" She screeched. "There's only one! GIVE IT BACK!"
Still fatigued, Axel could not keep his fast pace and the old crone soon caught up to him. He could feel her hands, like wax, harshly gripping his wrist. He saw her reach for the contract in his hand, and he quickly transferred it to the other. Instantly, the woman released her grip on Axel, looking pleased. His head in a whirl from exhaustion, he could not quite comprehend what it was he had just done. He looked down at the hand which held the contract, the mangled bloody hand. The remnants of the blood from his thumb had painted the dotted line red. He was now hers. He felt his body freeze in place as the witch crept up to him, needle and thread in hand. Finally getting a clear look at her, he could see no sign of Tifa in her, and wondered how he had been fooled. She had a long pasty face, accompanied by an impossibly thin figure.
"You ready?" She asked sweetly.
Axel tried to move. He tried to scream as loud as he could, but nothing happened.
"Well, you did sign the contract so, let's begin..."
"Axel!" Roxas whispered harshly. He shook his friend as violently as he could but nothing would wake him. The proctor walked over to him with a large dictionary in hand.
"Step back." She commanded Roxas, and he did so.
She raised the book high above Axel's desk, ready to drop it.
"Wait." Roxas said, concerned. "You're not gonna drop it on him are you?"
She kept her eyes locked on Axel.
"Not on purpose."
She let the book fall from her hands and land square on the back of Axel's head, slamming his forehead into the desk. After a brief second, Axel responded.
"ow-what?" Axel slurred.
"Hand me your test." She ordered.
Axel, lazily lifted his head off his desk and handed her the drool saturated test. She looked at it, and him, in disgust and grabbed it by its corner, then left the two alone. Axel stretched and roared with pleasure while rising out of his seat.
"Well, that was a nice nap." He said. "The nightmare wasn't cool, but I'm feelin' pretty good."
"Axel, you got a zero on the midterm." Roxas said, wincing at the putrid scent coming from Axel's mouth.
"Eh, you worry too much." Axel said walking out the door. "Loosen up a bit and maybe you'll learn something."
Roxas simply shrugged and tailed behind him.
Outside, Axel took notice of Tifa, chatting with her friends. She smiled and waved and he did the same. But when she turned away, he glowered at her suspiciously, eyes squinted tight.
"I've got my eye on you." He said to himself, as he marched back to his dormitorium.
"Got your eye on who?" Roxas asked confused.
Axel remained silent.
When they arrived, he made a beeline for the bed and snuggled up close with the one person he considered his best friend, maybe even something more. Though he wasn't sure if he felt the same, although he'd always wished it.
"Goodnight Sandman." He yawned. And off he drifted…
Till next time...