Chapter Three: Taking Steps Toward Infinity

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Content Warning: brief mention of child abuse/punishment

It was still dark when I stirred from my slumber. The dream I'd had—the infinity symbol, the voices that had comforted me—was still at the front of my mind. After what felt like an eternity yet too soon all the same, it faded and transitioned into an enveloping nothingness that consoled me like nothing else I'd ever experienced.

Frowning, I pressed further into the pillow under my head and shut my eyes. If I fell asleep again, would it come back to me? Would I be able to dream it again? I pictured the light, the pure feeling of being home, but it was no use. I wasn't even tired anymore.

Crickets chirped outside like a lullaby and the moonlight filtered down through my open window, casting an otherworldly glow onto the carpet and walls. I listened for something other than the crickets, like footsteps or creaks in the house, but nothing was out of the ordinary.

It was the middle of the night. What had woken me?

I opened my eyes again and pulled the covers off me, ready to stand... and that was when I saw it.

In the corner of my sight, blinking and barely noticeable, was a small icon. It was square with rounded edges, and inside there was an envelope. It wasn't real; the overall appearance was too virtual, as if someone had created it in an illustration program. It reminded me of the message application on a phone, like any minute now it would light up, telling me I had a message.

It blinked a brighter white.

I squinted to make sure I wasn't seeing things. When it didn't go away, I shook my head from side to side. It stayed fixed at the edge of my sight even through the movement. My mouth fell open.

What was going on? Was I still dreaming?

I stood up and crossed the room but the icon stayed at the corner of my vision, the same size it was to begin with. No matter which way I looked, it was unmoving, constant—as if it had been permanently fixed to that position, like that was its rightful place.

Like that was where it belonged.

I scrambled back to my bed quietly to avoid waking my family. What should I do? How did I get it to go away? This wasn't normal. This... This was unnatural. Things like this didn't just happen to people.

The envelope seemed to sense my inner turmoil and blinked again.

I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to calm my breathing. A vein in my neck throbbed with how hard my heart was pounding. I couldn't see it behind my eyelids, but as soon as I opened them, the icon was still there. Taunting me.

Then, in the midst of all my confusion, an idea hit me. It was far-fetched, but... It looked like an icon. What if it acted like one, too?

My hand inched forward, fingers curling. My breath still came out in unsteady, nervous puffs, but I had made up my mind now. What other choice did I have?

I extended my hand the rest of the way, until it was hovering right on the icon, but I couldn't make contact with anything. How would it register my touch if I couldn't actually touch it? I tried stretching my hand further, but it never hit anything. It was all in my head.

The envelope, now animated, flipped open and a cloud of... something, slipped out, coating the middle of my vision with a translucent rectangle. Letters began to appear, one by one, until finally, there was a coherent message in front of the blurry background of my surroundings.

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