Lost And Lost

Lost And Lost

Brian idly stared out the rain-pattered window of the diner that he sat in with Jessica. He felt as if in a dreamlike state, watching each individual raindrop splatter against the glass before tumbling down its surface. Something almost felt off to him, like he had neglected to remember something important. Then again, with all the things he found himself juggling, he did not blame himself for forgetting anything.
“-Brian!” called Jessica, for the fifth time.
Brian suddenly snapped out of his trance, turning towards his wife. “Sorry, I spaced out a little. What were you saying?”
“The money from last week's check is almost out. We’re gonna to have to think about how we can make ends meet.”
“Yeah, you’re right…” he responded with a sigh. “…You know, as a kid, I thought adult life would be so much better. That it would just be a walk in the park, and I’d have all the answers…” he scoffed and looked back out the window. “Of course, that was stupid of me to think.”
Jessica placed her hand on Brian’s. “Hey, it’s okay, hun. A lot of us thought the same, too. I know I did.” She rubbed his shoulder in reassurance. “We’ll figure this out together, I promise.”
Half of Brian had been listening to Jessica, and acknowledged what she said. But the other half of him was too preoccupied to reply, his attention drawn elsewhere. Outside the diner, in the distance of the parking lot, stood a person that he could've sworn he recognized. Long red coat, pinkish hair…there was something entirely uncanny about this individual’s presence.
“Brian? Brian, honey? Where are you going?” Jessica faintly called in the back of his mind. Brian barely noticed that he had gotten up from his seat and stepped outside to approach the person. His movements were almost automatic, as if by instinct.

Brian strode up to the individual. “Who the fuck are you? Why are you stalking m-” he tried demanding, before the person cut him off.
“Don't say another word, or you'll risk resetting. This is the seventh time I've tried reaching out to you.” The person cautiously looked around, before turning back to Brian and speaking in a hushed whisper. “You aren’t safe here.
“What are you talking about?!”
“None of this is real. Look around.”
Brian stepped back and took in his surroundings. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to him. “You sure you aren’t some druggie? You definitely dress like one.”
“I’m serious!” The person snapped. “Really look!”
With a huff, Brian looked again, all around himself. He still saw nothing abnormal. “You’re just crazy. Everything's the same as it usually is. The sky is always pastel-colored and shattered into polygons…” he suddenly did a double take, his eyes widening. “Wait, what the fuck?!”
The person silently nodded. “Now you see.”
Brian was bewildered. “Okay, let me ask you again: who are you? And what the Hell is going on?!”
“I am Aelita River — well, not really, not anymore. I no longer exist, technically.”
Please stop being pretentious and just give me a straight answer.”
River sighed. “You are no different from me. You are but a fabrication of your own memory, just as this ‘world’ is.” Ze explained.
“Then who — what — really am I?”
“You are an entity called ‘The Keymaster’; a being who holds the keys to every level of The Backrooms.”
With these words, a flood of memories suddenly came back to Brian. “I…I remember now.” He looked around. “Then that must mean…this is my former life.”
“-One of them,” River corrected. “Your identity is a two-sided coin.”
Brian scratched his head in confusion. “But how did I even get here? What happened?”
“You fell into heaven and encountered me. I tried to warn you away, to stop you from getting any closer, but she prevented me from doing anything more. she overpowered my will, and trapped you in your own nostalgia.”
“Wait, who are you talking about? Who is ‘she’?” Asked Brian.
River ignored this question, seemingly purposefully, as ze continued explaining. “Upon learning why she had taken such interest in you, I was horrified. I knew that I could not allow her plan to succeed.”
“And why do you care so much about helping me?”
“This is far greater than just you. If I do not stop her, my sacrifice will have been in vain. All the lives I fought to save would face the wrath of a neglected goddess.”
“-Who?! Just tell me who you are taking about!” Brian snapped, his patience run completely dry.
“…Nostalgi Gaius,” River replied meekly, as if afraid to utter the name.
“….I recognize that name,” Brian realized.
A chill ran down River’s spine. “You do…?” Ze asked in horror.
“What’s wrong with that?”
“If you know who she is, her grip on you is already vicelike. She knows you far more well than you think you know her. She wants you. She misses you. She loves you.” River’s form glitched, and ze groaned in agony, before restabilizing. “Damn, too close, she almost came through. We need to act quickly.”
“But how?”
River extended hir hand forth to Brian. “Come. I’ll show you.”
Brian slowly looked back towards the diner. He saw Jessica staring out the window towards him, looking confused and perhaps even sad. His heart ached to have to leave her again, but deep down, he knew she was not real. After a moment of silent deliberation, he turned back to River and took hir hand.


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