Did a black hole really try to eat me or was that just a weird dream? One minute I was being sucked into the void and then the world had returned back to normality. If you can count ice-covered ruins of Eureka a normality that is.
I had to find Seven and quickly. The power of Captain would keep me safe.
I was all alone in the ruins of the world. "This was all my fault! I could have prevented all of this" I shamed myself, staring at the frozen wasteland. "Why didn't I pay attention to the signs?!"
There was a sign warning of radiation poisoning sticking out of the broken gravel. "SUPER SECRET BASE -> NO SOLICITORS OR UNDEAD PLS!" It declared in a lopsided font above the radioactive warning. I stared at the sign. It looked exactly like something Captain would draw.
I trudged through the gravel towards where the sign pointed. The sky darkened, the wind picked up, green lightning flickered through the clouds.
“Alexander Gromov... oh Doctor Gromov.” The wild whistled. I chose to ignore it. Hearing voices was never a good thing. The eerie, young voice drifted across the wasteland, like echoes of distant twinkling bells. “I know you can hear me Doc. I need your help. I need you to let me out of the Door.”
"Nope nope nope nope." I started to run, kicking up bits of gravel behind me.
“The longer you ignore me, the more horrors will come your way. You cannot outrun the Dead Zone, Doc.”
"NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE." I pressed my hands against my ears, walking faster. The voice in the wind, sounded like the voice of the daughter of my best friend Dr. Nova. It wasn’t real. Cassie was dead. Dr Nova was dead. They were all dead and it was all my fault. These were only memories, phantoms of the past my mind must have drudged up to torment me again and again.
“Stop running away, G-damn it! I’m trying to talk to you!” The voice persistently followed me as I ran away from it.
Human figures revealed themselves in the gloom of the Dead Zone. I skidded to a stop. They weren't moving. I cautiously approached the figures, circling them. It was mannequins. I noticed tens, no hundreds... thousands of mannequins, some of them dressed in all sorts of absurd, clashing, mold-covered, grayed out outfits. They stood like silent guardians of this place. I shuddered.
Following "secret base" signs what a terrible idea in hindsight. How could I even be sure that this was Captain's handiwork? What if it was some other morally-twisted survivors? What if they ate people?
The mannequins stared at me with their empty, expression deprived, eye-less faces. I tried to get past them, but bumped into one that was dressed like a construction-clerk santa. The mannequin wobbled precariously. I suddenly noticed silver strings running between the mannequins. The strings vibrated in the air as the mannequins wobbled.
I kicked a few mannequins over, running in the other direction.
A trolleybus rose above the sea of mannequins, opening a maw filled with seats. It slid, walked atop thick, silver strands stretched out between the mannequins. I screamed, running faster. The trolleybus followed, hunger for passengers in its glowing light bulb eyes.
The spider-trolley was closing in. I regretted skipping gym class to write games on my laptop in the library. My chest burned as I plowed through mannequins and tripped on strings. I could feel the breath of the trolley on my back and it smelled like moldy, old car seats.
I hid behind a large pile of mannequins and panted, awaiting my doom. There was nothing, but the rapid beating of my heart and the whisper in the wind. "Come on doc, aren't we pals? Can’t you grant me a small favour? Open the Existential Door for me? Let me free from the dark room?"
"You're dead! You're dead and I'm sorry! The Dark Matter Engine had been a mistake! Please, forgive me Cassie!" I wept. The mannequins stared at my despair.
"Crying won't solve this. Letting me out will."
I saw a silver, ghostly outline of a long dead girl walking in between the forest of mannequins.
“A Dead Zone wraith…” I gasped, choking.
“Me? A wraith? Pfff. Do you even know what a wraith is? A wraith gets up daily at exactly 6:33 am and puts on his coat. A hard day of spookery awaits. But he finds nobody to spook because all the tourists are dead. Days go by. He is lonely and sad. Nobody waits for him at his apartment. Even his little, fake solar-powered flower died because he forgot to love it or maybe because sunlight is expensive. Someday he will go on a date with a traffic light, but until that day his life is misery. Support your hard working wraiths. Give them hugs and kisses!”
The trolleybus monstrosity snarled with the snapping of electrical cables above me.
I scrambled over the mannequin hillside, sliding down it, smashing against numerous plastic elbows.
The trolley spider was coming. Countless rows of jagged seats snapped at me as it snarled.
I wept. The mannequins were silently judging me.
I could run no further. I was out of breath, I tripped and fell, crashing into numerous mannequins. Bunch of them fell atop me, pinning my legs. The seat-teeth of the trolley began to close around my neck.
"How many trolley seats piled together does it take to snap a human neck? Three? Five? Maybe... Seven? What do you think, doc?"
I felt my neck snap. My vision doubled. I saw a white room. "Welcome to Heaven.'' A voice sung. "Your personal paradise awaits you, director Gromov." The whiteness parted and I saw my grandfather's cottage before me. Orange fields extended as fast as the eye could see. The horizon endlessly curled upwards.
“12 seats. That's the answer. You’re a tough nut, doc. Really hard to crack.”
I blinked. Sweat dripped from my forehead into my eyes. I was alive.
“Cooperate or the trolley bites you in half!” The voice of the ghost resonated in between the faceless mannequins.
"You're not real! You've died a long time ago! Begone! Haunt me no longer!" I wept and the voice in the wind was suddenly not there anymore.
I shoved a mannequin off me. The trolley spider was gone too.
I cautiously crawled down the hill of mannequins, twitching from every noise.
My feet were shaking. I added spider-trolley phobia to the list of my nightmares. The mannequin forest vanished in the fog.
An enormous, tattered sign hung from the highway, too impossibly large to be made by a single person.
"CAPTANIA WELCOMES YOU, LONELY WANDERER! BEHOLD THE MIRACLES OF CAPTANIA! OBEY THE RULES AND BE MERRY!"