Chapter 5 – Sanctum

As soon as they enter the introvert layer they are greeted by a surprise. Aléi notes that they are in a basement of sorts. It has a bed and thin books spread all across it. There’s blood splattered everywhere, and in front of one of the two doors is Sharon fighting a parasite. She appears badly wounded, but yet she delivers punches and kicks at the beast.

Ashling finishes off the parasite with a few bullets from his gun.

“Thanks for the help, but I was just about to win there,” Sharon says. Although grateful, she has some subtle annoyance in her voice.

“Has there been any more of them passing through here?” Ashling wonders, not having time to exchange pleasantries and boasts.
“Yeah, tons. I got a few of them though. They ruined my comic collection,” Sharon says, doing a gesturing wipe to her room. Sure thing, there are three killed parasites scattered across it.

“Right, well excuse us, we’re quite in a hurry,” Ashling pushes himself through the door. “Got a person to save.”

“Oooh! Sounds exciting, let me help!” Sharon exclaims, hand waving in the air as if she wants to answer a question she knows in class, forgetting she was just rudely pushed.

Ashling gives her a brief glance. She’s really worse for wear; blood is pouring out of her various wounds and yet it seems like she can keep going. “I guess,” he says while shifting his focus back to the outside of the room.

Outside the room is the rest of the basement. A closed door in one end, stairs up to the rest of the house in the other. Seeing as how the door to the right is untouched, the parasites have most likely gone the other way, so Ashling decides to follow. The three head up the stairs.

What awaits them is not the rest of the house, but rather the gymnasium of The Meeting Place. The door to the hallway near the bleachers have been knocked off their hinges. Ashling gestures that that’s where they should go.

Before they reach the door though, Aléi notices something on the ceiling, and a few parasites fall down, followed by a bigger parasite. They are surrounded.

“A Brute! Aléi, be careful!” Ashling summons a second gun and shoots at the big parasite. The bullets have no effect.

Sharon rushes forward and leaps into the air, determined to kick the Brute into next week, but she’s grabbed and thrown across the room.

“Sharon!” Aléi shouts.
“I’m fine,” is the reply.

Sharon stands up, legs shaking a bit, but still alive. Aléi speculates that Sharon sees herself as someone who doesn’t give up, no matter what. If this was true or not, Aléi didn’t know, but she can’t help but be a bit impressed.

The Brute lunges forward, intending on squashing Ashling with a mighty punch to the ground. He nimbly dodges, and Aléi decides to put her imitator training to work and copies Ashling’s agility, followed by the Brute’s strength. She feels herself changing as she adjusts her pose; her build alters slightly to that of Ashling’s, and her arms turn dark and huge, much like the Brute’s. Definitely a side-effect of being in the dream.

With her new-found powers she strikes at the Brute with her sword. The sword cuts clean through, and the parasite stumbles backwards.

Meanwhile, Sharon has rejoined the battle by tackling down a parasite and is now delivering a series of punches to its face.

Ashling takes care of the other parasites easily, not needing more than three bullets for each. Each hit lands with deadly accuracy.

The Brute recovers and throws a punch at Aléi, who uses the agility of Ashling to launch herself up in the air. She then uses her flying powers to throw herself downwards, but with the sword ready, delivering a powerful down stab at the monster.

It falls to the ground and liquefies.

“Amazing!” Ashling cheers, visibly impressed. “Let’s not stop here though.”
“You will have to go on without me,” Sharon says, falling down and leaning on a dead parasite.
“’Know your limits’ and all that. I’ll catch up to you in a minute though,” she says.

Ashling gives Aléi a nod and the two keep going.

After going through the doors (which led to a classroom), the gate was not hard to find, and this time it was unguarded.

The two enter the gate.

*

“Where are we now?” Aléi wonders.

The area they landed in is very small. A wooden floor stretches into darkness not far away from them. There is a fireplace sparkling with a friendly, warm fire. In front of the fireplace is a soft rug, and on it a cozy blanket. Piles of literature, namely Sharon’s many comic books, are located in a circle around the area. It’s quiet. Peaceful.

“It’s Sharon’s sanctum. Her ‘happy place’,” Ashling explains. “Everyone has one of those places where they go when things get to much, too stressful. A place where they go to calm down. Many take shape of a place from their childhood.”

“Where are the parasites?” Aléi wonders. She looks out into the darkness, hoping they won’t get ambushed.

“There was nothing for them here, so I’d reckon they just kept going,” Ashling says.
“How many more layers are there?”
“After this one we have the Desire, the Nightmares, and then finally the Core.”

Aléi frowns when she hears ‘nightmares’. She figures they will most likely also be exaggerated like the rest of the layers, and understandably doesn’t look forward to that.

They spend a moment looking for the gate, and it’s quickly found on the back of the fireplace. There’s still no sign of any parasites, and Ashling explains they tend not to stick around for long in the Sanctum for some reason. Aléi doesn’t mind.

“Alright, Desire is up next,” Ashling informs Aléi. She nods, and the two enter the portal.

*

The Desire layer isn’t overly spectacular. They seem to be on an air-ship of some sort, flying above a landscape far below. Unfortunately no-one seems to be alive to tell what Sharon’s exaggerated desires would be. There are some small fires spread out around the ship, and part of the railing is broken.

The two decide not to waste time and locates the gate.

The two get ready to enter the next layer: the Nightmares.

NEXT CHAPTER

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