𝕰𝖎𝖌𝖍𝖙𝖊𝖊𝖓

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"ELLA!!!!!!!"

THE crowd of lurker's hunch over, fighting for that one spot. I gag, pushing myself away from the ledge.

"D-dean," Ambers takes a tentative step towards me.

I slowly look up, meeting my line of sight with Jace's. "This, is, all, your fault."

"Dean," Amber takes another step, "l-let's think this through..."

"You're the fucking reason she's dead!" I lunge for him but Bray jumps in front of me. "Get the fuck off me, Brayson!"

"Ease the fuck down, Dean!" Bray roars in my face.

"It wasn't my fault, man!" Jace retorts. "I told her to go!"

"Jace," Bray shakes his head at him warningly, "just shut up. You're only making this worse."

"She was supposed to be on the ladder before you!" I scream over Bray's shoulder. "Why'd you haveta go and ruin everything, huh!? I said to get the fuck off me, Brayson!!"

"Stop it guys!" Amber's eyes are conditioned with tears. "It's no one's fault! Just bad timing!"

"Bad timing!?" I face her, outta my mind. "Amber, she's dead!" I point out the window. "Gone! You know what that means?! Gone like Mum!"

"I kn..wait, what?" she stares at me, nonplussed. "Mum...Mum's dead? Since when!?"

I relax hopelessly, "...I saw her back at the school...in the herd. I was..I was gonna tell you..!" I step forward to her but she steps back. "I just...I just didn't know how."

"Seriously, you kept this from me!? How could you?"

I don't know what to say... Carmen goes up to console her.

A raging migraine develops above my right eye. I slide my back down against a wall, allowing the familiar darkness to enclose in on me. I feel safe in this kinda darkness. Safe and sound.

****

"...Which illustrates to us how classical conditioning can be used to condition an emotional response," the voice of a teacher from up ahead fills my senses.

I must've passed out again. When the view becomes clear, I register that I'm staring out the classroom's window. I blink a few times, my eyelashes are wet. I quickly wipe my cheeks, making sure that there are no remnants of tears on there. Hopefully, no one's noticed me like this.

"At first 'Little Albert' is-"

"Sir, can I go to the toilet?" I intercept.

He pauses, studying me for a second.

I gulp, getting nervous.

"Make it quick, Dean," he turns away.

~~~~

In the bathroom, I turn my elbow around and examine it via its reflection. How is this possible? How is any of this possible? What's real and what's not? Everything feels authentic in both worlds. I know what dreaming feels like and I have to be honest - this isn't it. The last thing I remember before passing out was how I lost Ella. The way-WAIT. ELLA.

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