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Blanched White Bolster

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Looming over me like bars on a prison cell, the trees stood with underlying dominance. Disgruntled, the leaves underfoot gave way, and crumbled to dust. Off, in the distance - a sign, a light, beckoning, to me, perhaps? Hesitantly, I trundled through the harsh undergrowth, the moon fiercely smirking through the opaque clouds and overbearing trees. A quick glance backwards told all that would need to be known - there was no way back, only a way forward. Grudgingly, hating myself for getting into this in the first place, I continued into the deep dank forest. One look at it told me all I needed to know - it was derelict, sure, but more importantly, there was no-one around for miles. It would be perfect. It itself loomed and beckoned, like it wanted me to stay the night - menacingly, mind - but no matter. That could wait till morning.

I awoke to a world that wasn't quite right. The trees, they stood taller, darker, angrier. In giving way, the leaves wouldn't crumble like they used to, instead they just crinkled and snapped nonchalantly. The opaque clouds were even more so, blocking all sense of definition more than a few dozen feet up in an impermeable blanket of dull grey. Fog rolled in across the landscape, shrouding me and smirking with delight at my discomfort. I stumbled my way through the clearing, not even bothering to look back at where I had slept.

I burst through the trees and the wood out into the edge of the forest, which was remarkably clear. The contrast from the dank forest was astonishing - the atmosphere had completely changed, there were people in the park, small children playing, everyone having a generally good time. A look back - there was no way back, not that it would be needed. The trees were still overbearing cell bars, but less so. A turn back again, to face the park.

And then everything went crazy.

Because none of it was real.

Everything, it just seemed to radiate fake, like it was taunting me with how incontestably obvious it really was. The bars, they were just too tall; too plastic, the men, the women, the children; all robotic in nature and operating by some scarce algorithms uploaded by God knows who, everything seemed to stretch in every which way, the sunlight hammering down on me like there was no tomorrow, thirst screeching at my every movement, head pounding--

Water. I needed water.

A few side glances to my surroundings showed all that was needed to be known - a small kiosk to the right, towards the malevolent sun, which was glowering brighter and more indignantly than ever - was it worth it? Was it worth the risk? Too late - I had already started scrambling towards the supposedly vital obelisk of water, and before there was any small teasing glimmer of a chance to abnegate on the sprint, I was already there, automatically sweeping up a bottle of Evian, and wrenching the top off like it was my only purpose in life.

But then I stopped - was this going to quench my thirst? Or make everything even worse? Was it wise to drink the so-called "water"?

The decision was made - drink it anyway, and then worry about the resulting ramifications. Oblivious to the cries for payment, I downed half the bottle at once, zealously downing the fluid.

And then everything went mad.

The sky metamorphosed into a vividly lucid shade of pomegranate, the grass bleached to light gold, the faces of the children - the most horrible of all - into a deep blood red, the skin peeling from their cheeks...

That's all I can say about it for now.

Nowadays I live in a box, the walls carpeted with blanched-white bolster, the only entrance the exit, not trusting anything or anyone. Whatever started this comes in forms, forms I am supposed to recognise: a sister, a brother, a friend, trying to lure me, lure me out of the safety of the bolster.

I can't trust any of them. They all "think" I've lost my marbles.

But I know I've found them.

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