"No! Nooooo!"

The sudden, high-pitched whistling sound of something being thrown at impossible speeds flew through the air, mixing with a distressed scream into a terrible cacophony. My view of the scene was blocked by the decaying infirmary walls, but that only made the horrifying sound ring louder in my ears. My other senses had shut down and time had turned on me to creep by in agonizing, terrifying seconds. My mind felt numb, unable to process what was happening. I didn't even notice Yoshiki standing next to me, his breath caught in his throat and in a similar state to me. My shock overrode everything, even my own throbbing heartbeat.

A sickeningly wet splatter abruptly terminated all noise.

My body jerked from its petrified daze as harsh reality dug and scraped its way into my mind. For a moment, I could do nothing but listen to the deafening silence that followed.

And then the tiny, seemingly insignificant object still in my hand turned into a heavy burden that scorned my very existence.

I slowly looked down at the antique doll in my grip, the artificial eyes listless in its mockingly cherubic face and belying the supposed penitent spirit contained within.

That doll was supposed to save Mayu. That doll was supposed to save me. That doll was supposed to save everyone.

But instead it had murdered my friend.

Rage consumed my being and blurred my vision with hot tears. I squeezed the delicate figure's neck, trying to strangle the nonexistent life out of the cold porcelain. My knuckles turned bone white and my joints became rigid from the force of the pressure, but nothing happened. The skull didn't crack, the throat didn't buckle inward, the eyes didn't plead for mercy. No signs of the pain I so desperately wanted to inflict upon the damning creature.

Overwhelmed in frustration and wrath, I hurled the child's toy at the ground in vengeful spite. It bounced off of the rotten wood once before landing precariously at the edge of a hole in the floorboards.

I wish it had fallen.

My chest heaved with my furious panting breaths as my fingernails dug into the skin of my clenched fists. My gasps for oxygen resounded in the quiet, still air, gradually subduing the rabid frenzy that had seized and encompassed my pounding heart.

As the anger faded, a pressing cold trickled through my limbs and panic began to race through my veins.

Rampant emotions stabbed through my mind, each one bringing a sharp, stinging pain. Hatred. Fear. Guilt. Depression. Hopelessness.

An agonized cry pierced the air. It took me a few seconds to process the sound before I realized that it was coming from me.

I closed my mouth, my esophagus burning from the screech that had wrenched its way out of my throat.

I suddenly felt the bizarre urge to run into the hallway. To see the outcome, and to confirm my worst fears.

As if a part of me still had some sick hope that it hadn't happened.

Adrenaline rushed through my veins, temporarily numbing my thought processes from the fear of what I knew I would find.

The only thought I could comprehend at that moment was run. Run and hope for something that could not be possible.

I brushed past Yoshiki, who could only turn and watch me flee, still stunned from the sudden events that seemed to crash down around us. My steps were unsteady, and I nearly twisted my ankles many times, but I didn't even notice. I made my way through the haunting dormitory and into the hall, taking a sharp turn that nearly caused my unbalanced strides to skid on the splintered floor. Somehow, I managed to avoid the treacherous holes and split boards that consisted of my path.

A revolting stench washed over my senses, making my empty stomach churn painfully and bile rose in my throat. Before I could even comprehend this indication, I saw it.

I slowed down immediately, stumbling as my body forgot the need to breathe. My legs buckled and I pitched forward to land on my knees, which caused a sharp ache to resonate through the joints. The pain was lost under the overwhelming reek of blood, the source only inches away from me.

My eyes wide and unblinking, I could only stare at the carnage. Scarlet was splattered across the wall, as if someone had thrown a can of paint at the vertical surface; the small clumps of sticky, meat-like substances still slowly sliding down revealed otherwise. Red liquid painted the floor, pooling around the mangled parts of flesh. Organs had violently burst, leaking their vital contents and mixing with the sea of blood. Fragments of bone, many with crude remnants of muscles and ligaments clinging to the slick surface, lay scattered amid the remains. Torn scraps of fabric and fibers soaked in the crimson ocean, drowning in the sinister flood. Near the center of the scene, its strikingly bright color deeply contrasting with the lurking dark around it, swam a…a…

My heart lurched. There, coated in a thin sheen of blood, lay a tiny, cracked sphere.

The remainder of a pink hair tie.

Mayu's hair tie.

Despair ravaged my body. I trembled violently and uncontrollably, my eyes squeezing shut as tears flowed down my cheeks. The salty drops trickled off of my jaw and fell, spotting the dark floor with miniature splashes. My fingernails dug into the wooden floorboards so harshly that blood welled from the abused skin.

An icy wave claimed my body, leaving me feeling hollow and empty. I felt so, so cold…

There was still heat radiating off of the carcass…

That only made me tremble more.

A sound, created from the back of the throat in a mixture of revulsion and shock, came from behind me. A few shaky footsteps echoed throughout the hallway as someone stepped closer to me to look upon the gory remains. I hadn't even heard them walking down the hall.

"Wh-What…the hell…?" A male voice spoke, quiet in rapidly increasing horror. I vaguely recognized it as Yoshiki's. I didn't respond, couldn't respond, as my body quaked upon the floor.

My sanity was cracking, I could feel it. It strained under the weight of the pure malevolence I had endured and the overwhelming mix of raw emotions that I could not even comprehend, desperately holding onto the last threads of my sanity with the last of its waning strength.

And it was losing.

"This isn't…It couldn't be…" Yoshiki trailed off, terror tightening his words. "Suzu—"

I screamed.

Her last name seared into my being, invisible flames licking and scorching the delicate fibers that held together my psyche. Every last glimpse of hope and happiness that I thought had long ago withered away was brutally and mercilessly destroyed.

The dark and decaying hallway suddenly seemed to push in on me, suffocating and relentless, closer and closer and closer and closer….

My shivering limbs slowly and painstakingly raised me up to an unstable stand, barely able to keep by brittle body upright without folding in on itself. Through the thick, stifling vice of pure anguish that gripped my mind, the incredibly miniscule sliver of my subconscious that still retained coherency urgently sent message after desperate message to the nerve clusters in my frozen legs, frantically trying to tug me away from the source of my unbearable torment.

Yoshiki suddenly stepped in front of me, warily avoiding the carnage as he vainly attempted to block my view with his body.

It was far too late for that.

"Shinozaki!" he called out.

I barely registered that it was my name he spoke.

Yoshiki swallowed, both from the overpowering reek of copper assaulting his nose and my lack of response. "Come on, let's get away from here!" he pressed. He kept his voice firm, but the fear that underlined the forced steadiness threatened to usurp his control. He reached out to me with one hand, as if by me taking it everything would be alright and we could get out of this living hell and that Mayu wasn't splattered all over the wall—


The high-pitched shriek ripped its way from my vocal cords, ringing with every drop of pain that assailed my being. My legs shot forward and propelled me down the corridor, my mind threatening to shatter into a thousand invisible shards in the tainted hallway where the smothering presence of death pressed down on my very being. Eyes clamped shut and muscles burning from overexertion, I ran blindly, one thought racing through my mind and fueling my actions.

Run. Run, and don't look back.