Poison rain descended from the canopy of azure. A force so slow yet unforgiving of the endless fields that thrived from its vivifying nutrients. It was deserted at first glance, a distorted illusion of a once-promised land merely saturated with acres of suspiciously upright flowers, ivory-tinted yet blinding like burning magnesium.
I wandered barefoot, feeling every sharp pinch of those pebbles piercing my skin. A trail of red freckled along the wavering cobblestone, its eroded curves sinking into the earth beneath. Tendrils of sea-green vines meandered around each slab, besmirching their discrete beige hue.
It all felt familiar. A reality architectured to the finest detail. Carved from delirious thoughts with a touch of intimacy embedded into every single element yet the fabled fantasy trickled from my grasp like falling sand, whisked away by autumn winds - a memory that drowned in my mind.
My palms brushed along the delicately shaded leaves, their towering stems sagging towards the middle - just as encompassing as a cavern. They were unique in behaviour, possessing quirks that fascinated me since their discovery. Kneeling, I reached forward to pluck the little one, its white petals swaying against the breeze before tenderly coiling around my finger. Fierce baby fangs anchored into my flesh, stuttering a miniature waterfall of ichor that stained it a pale taffy.
It didn't pain.
I continued on my journey. The once-distant mirage of the snug cottage ahead gradually morphed into a solid structure with each footstep. Cracked concrete painted with a golden yellow that resembled an egg yolk - contrasting the hushed cerulean streaks gliding across the sky. It seemed too animated, too naive and absurd like ones found in picture books.
The brass doorknob, grainy in texture, creaked as I twisted it - droplets of my blood seeped into the hardwood door frame, cascading into the darkened ridges. Dust particles trembled at the swing of the entrance, slipping into the stream of sunshine flooding the house. A pastel yellow wallpaper with a hypnotising pattern surfaced the entirety of the interior - almost meant to bewitch intrusive visitors.
A desolate single seater sofa slumbered in the living room. Tarnished and lined with faded black stripes that ran till its edges. The television was frozen, mumbling white noise through the antique speakers. The dust had accumulated in its crevices becoming a second layer of skin overlaying the plastic. Ironically, a pristine welcome mat lay near the door, not a single sign of usage in its appearance, unlike other the artefacts that existed in the room.
A barely-there hint of sweetness lingered in the air, capturing my senses for just a second. I followed the candied trail to the kitchen - a room more barren than the previous. Empty, damaged shelves. Faulty refrigerator. Missing utensils. Nothing. Nothing but a serving of chillies perched right in the centre of the table - a knife positioned an innocent distance from them. As I walked closer, the sugary aroma amplified, taunting me to savour the oxymoron.
And I did. Alarmingly red in colour, yet an explosion of bliss charred my throat as I bit one. A burning aftertaste that strangely reminded me of roasted marshmallows on a childhood camping trip. Smoke slithered out my mouth, curling in the air - a rapturous vanilla fragrance that left me wanting more.
The television screeched, adjusting to a plain white display. I stiffened as the pixels transformed into colour, forming an image of a knight clad in armour. The knight raised his free hand, aiming his gloved finger straight at me. A floorboard from behind squeaked, I spun on my feet nearly tripping when the same knight stood at the end of the hallway, shifting to an aggressive stance - his silver sword three strokes away from slicing my neck.
He charged forward, footsteps thundering with each move. I seized the knife from the table, holding it dangerously close to my own body. He propelled his sword forwards, penetrating the wall like a dart nailing a bullseye. My knife slashed the air in hopes of defence, but he deflected it with ease. I dove to catch the blade before it grazed the ground, shoving it into his chest. He staggered back, but with one swift manoeuvre, the razored edges sliced through his arm like butter - clean and smooth.
Rage howled from upstairs. An army. Roars of fierce, monstrous knights clashed their weapons, dropping to the floor one by one with a bang of pure might that rocked the roof. I stared at the ceiling, wounded fingers quivering, anticipating a sound - a mistake so I could be ready with the knife. But only silence screamed.
A crimson helmet touched my feet, rust sheathing the insides a rugged bronze. My eyes flickered to his face, something about struck a chord in my mind. He seemed familiar. Liquid copper leaked from his bruises, translucent as syrup. It diffused across a rustic kitchen mat, soaking each thread with its dense richness. And that's when I realised.
He's my friend.
The sunlight bounced off the surface of the blade, turning the deep amber seeping from his chest a joyful coral - the outline of my disfigured reflection seared into my mind. I yelled his name, but all I heard was -
"Hey, you alright?"
I blinked foolishly at his question. He had been stabbed in the chest just seconds ago by a weapon that was no longer caged in my hand. With a deep exhale, I nodded my head, glancing at my perfectly normal finger.
"Got everything you need?" he asked, words laced with a freshly-adopted tinge of optimism. He leaned into the car's backseat, recklessly throwing the groceries. A smile washed over his features as he took the bag from my grip, "Doc said it's gonna take a while, remember? The mind palace will help with your memory."
A mother exited the supermarket behind, followed by the shrilling siren of her infant wailing in the stroller. She rummaged through her purse, hands tensed with concern till she wiggled a baby bottle in her son's line of sight, sighing when he quietened down in seconds.
"I forgot milk."
He laughed, "We can't have pancakes without milk, now can we?"