I hated this city.
I hated everything in it.
There were so many things that reminded me of a bad memories. Bad traffic, heavy air pollution, and so many bitter people that made me want to leave this place.
But I couldn’t.
Not just because I worked here, or because I didn’t have enough money from my crappy job to move and start a new life. It’s because this had been my hometown. Everything I knew had been here. I was already too comfortable living here. I was born here, grew up here. Hell, I might have even died here too like my parents did several years ago.
I don’t really like to talk about my parents. It’s not like I hated them; in fact, I loved them like they used to love me. Yes, used to. Since I became a college dropout, I had this feeling that they were disappointed in me, maybe even despised me, even though they never really showed it and treated me like they always had.
When my parents were still alive, I was the kind of person who would probably be called a “happy-go-lucky” kind of guy. Life seemed beautiful and perfect. But everything changed after they died. I became depressed. I lost contact with my friends, either through lack of communication or because I drove them away with my attitude. Swear words became my favourite method of speaking, and life was just a day-by-day routine. Wake up in the morning, go to work, go home, watch TV, play video games or troll on the internet, then sleep until I wake up in the morning and repeat the same pattern. I never expected that my life would sink so low. It made me bitter. It made me hate everything, including myself. I used to laugh at those angsty teenagers that saw the world through bleak, pathetic eyes, thinking the whole world was against them, never thinking to try and help themselves. I never thought I would find myself in their shoes.
I heard someone yell, snapping me back from my thoughts while walking to get home from work. I looked to my right and I see inside the dark night alley, a girl wearing a yellow turtleneck being mugged by a man dressed wear all black. The girl’s long pink skirt shook violently as she struggled to keep her purse from being ripped from her hands.
“HELP!” she shouted again, looking around desperately.
“Shut up! Just let go so I don’t have to hurt you!” the man growled, his voice muffled.
I didn’t realize that I was there as the seconds ticked by. Something about the situation had me baffled. As I looked around, I saw so many people just pass by; there were even several people that took a glance, but no one stopped. It’s like it was just me who was witnessing it taking place.
And then it hit me.
In this world, in this wretched world, people were willfully ignorant to things that didn't concern them directly. That was one of many things I had learned from living in this world for so long. No one cared about anyone but themselves.
And I should too.
“HELP! PLEASE ANYONE!” The girl started to cry, tears running down her eyes as she still clutched on to her purse.
Using his free hand, the mugger pulled out a knife from his pocket. “Goddamnit, just let it go so no one gets hurt!”
That was my cue to leave.
“Argh! What the hell!” I thought out loud while I turned around after one step to leave and forget that all of this ever happened. But I couldn’t. There was something that made me want to help her. There was something different about that girl.
“Hey!” I called to them as I got closer. “Leave her alone, and we can go home and forget all this ever happened, okay?” I said as calmly as I could.
“Stop there! Or I’m gonna... I’m gonna hurt you!” he said, his voice trembling as he pointed his knife at me.
I stopped and tried to quiet him down. “Okay, just throw down your knife or just keep it away and—”
Suddenly, the girl yanked her purse which made the man stumble. Quickly, I leapt forward and tackled the man as I tried to disarm him.
We fell to the ground and struggled for a few seconds before he stopped, a look of absolute horror on his face.
“Oh my god! I’m sorry. I’m really really sorry! I didn’t mean to do that,” he said before he shot up and ran away while I still remained on the ground.
The girl’s gasps reminded me of her presence. When I tried to sit up, I felt a pang of pain at my left chest and winced when I saw a knife handle sticking out. It had gone through my jacket and dark red stain was quickly growing around it.
My body dropped onto the ground of its own volition. I couldn’t help but groan whenever I breathed, pain surging throughout my body anytime I tried to move.
Soon though, the pain subsided as a sense of dizziness and lightheadedness numbed my body as I stared upwards, unblinking.
“Probably… the blood loss,” I thought dazedly.
“Oh… Oh my,” she whimpered as she knelt down, which made her hair swing back and forth as her hands tried to reach the knife. From the way she drew her hands back to her chest, it seemed she couldn’t do it.
“Just… Just stay there. I’m gonna find some help!” She dashed out to the bright road.
I gave a weak chuckle at that. “I hope you find someone who can help you now. I mean, it would be amazing to find someone as stupid like me to help you, right?”
My ear caught a voice from afar calling for anyone to help. After a few seconds, I couldn’t hear anymore, nor could I see from my closed eyes as my consciousness slipped out of my control.
The last thing I remembered was the question I asked to myself. “I’m not a bad person… right?”
A bird’s chirp invaded my ears. I saw the sun shine brightly through thick tree leaves and branches above me as I lie on my back.
I tried to sit up, but the pinch of pain from my left shoulder made me stop as I remember what had just happened.
Summoning all of my strength and energy, I stood up and examined my surroundings. All I could see were either trees and bushes, so I concluded that I was in some kind of forest. Everything felt surreal, however, as I had never seen anything like them before. They seemed almost… dark in nature.
Looking around, I saw a clearing in the distance. My body wobbled as I tried to walk. Unfortunately, the world started to spin as though I suddenly had vertigo. It felt like the inside of my head was being pulled out violently. Nevertheless, I kept moving. My feet stumbled around from walking on the uneven surface. I could hear the sounds of branches, leaves, and twigs snapping as I kept moving forward, hoping there were no predators that would hear me.
I heard a gushing sound, and I saw a flash of shadow swiftly moving on my side, leaving a trail of falling leaves. Ignoring what just happened, I kept moving forward to reach my goal.
The noise and the shadow felt nearer every time I took a step. I increased my pace as my heart started hammering inside my chest. The realization that the shadows were following me made the tendrils of fear grip me even more.
I froze in my tracks when the blurred shadow appeared in front of me, leaving the shadows behind. A wolf… No, it was not a wolf; it had a wolf form, but it was made entirely of branches, twigs, and leaves. The thing in front of me growled, and the pungent smell of something rotting hit my nose as I tried to keep from heaving.
Growling, more of these wood wolves, kept getting closer and closer, a constant stream of them emerging from the shadowy surroundings. They kept their heads low and growled menacingly. They seemed to take great delight in tormenting me with their mere presence.
One of them suddenly snarled. That was my cue to spin around and take off as fast as I could, my mind whirling drunkenly from what I had just seen.
I had never run that fast and that long before. My lungs were soon feeling as though someone had doused them in kerosene and set them on fire, either because my unprepared body demanded more oxygen, or because of the agony of the wound in my chest. And then, out of nowhere, I saw an opening from the trees, a dead log lying in the middle. The bright sunshine entering the forest ahead and the barking sounds behind motivated me to run faster. I hoped to find a civilization, campsite, road, or anything that could give me a chance to get some help and find safety.
When I reached the log, I vaulted over and realized that was a big mistake. Instead a flat surface, my feet lost their balance trying to land on a big slope. A quick glance to see where this slope ended told me in matter of seconds that I was going to fall down a cliff if I did not stop my descent. Unfortunately, in a split second, I was seeing sky after gravity decided to make my back meet the ground. I screamed out in panic. No more than a few seconds later, I felt my body freefalling, leaving the embrace of the earth into the air.
I had already closed my eyes because of the throbbing pain behind my head and because I had already accepted the fate that was about to crash upon me without mercy.
Suddenly, I felt my body being scooped up, and my stomach met a soft, bony structure that seemed to be an organic thing far different from the creatures I had encountered before. My face felt a brush of wind, and my ears heard a flapping noise. Am I flying? I thought to myself. Opening my eyes before I lost consciousness, all I could make out were yellow and pink before everything turned black.