Their plan for the next day was simple. They would wake up at around 10 AM, eat breakfast, go drop by Basil’s house to say hi, and then proceed to the hospital. It was a nice and simple plan, something they could follow easily without any hassle.
So why were they here?
Where were they?
Aubrey woke up peacefully, something rare. But the scenery she’d expect when she woke up were the warm colors of Hero and Kel’s living room- not this childish and bright room she was in.
But why the hell were Hero and Kel here too?
“What the fu- What is this place?” Kel shouted, Hero shushing him immediately.
To make sure this was real, Aubrey pinched her arm. “You guys are like… not part of my imagination right?”
Hero nodded, rocking a nervous smile, “I should be the one asking tha- Anyways... W-where are we?”
Everybody stayed silent. I mean, who wouldn’t? This was a surreal out-of-body experience…. If they were even outside their body probably.
This must be a dream Aubrey initially thought. But she could feel the pain of her pinches pretty well, Kel seems more frazzled than her, and Hero looks like he’s about to faint at any second.
T-this might be a kidnapping Aubrey started making up scenarios as she fiddled with the hems of her jacket. But she doubts that a place on Earth looked this trippy and surreal- unless they drugged all of them which could be the case-
“HOLY HELL WHAT IS THAT CAT” Kel screamed- But it was borderline shrieking if Aubrey were to be honest.
Hero eyes traveled to where Kel was pointing, “Where- OH GOD”
Aubrey was shocked as well. How did they not notice this omniscient yellow cat looking down on them?
The longer she stared at it, the more unease she felt. Tearing off her eyes from the unnerving sight, she cradled her face in her hands. This is definitely a fever dream… These past few days have been tough after all .
Trying to move past all the questions that she wanted to be answered, she walked around the room to inspect the objects in the room. From where she woke up, there was a pile of cards. Everything felt so familiar but she couldn’t pinpoint why.
There was a plushie of Sweetheart’s head, a hole, some plants, and a few more things.
Poking his tongue to his cheek, Hero’s eyes widened when he realized how this place seemed eerily familiar.
“Hey… Doesn’t this place remind you of ou- the treehouse?” Hero said slowly, slightly cautious.
Aubrey let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding.
“Yeah… Now you mentioned it, I have an inkling that this is the exact state we left it in… Probably.”
Kel approached the staircase leading up to who knows where. “Uh, so what’s the plan? Stay here and… call for help?” He gulps. His eyes peeking at the yellow cat who was staring back at him. Kel shivered, immediately retracting.
Hero ran a hand through his locks- He, like the others, was confused and scared. What is this place? If this was a dream, how are they all conscious? Dream-syncing? Is that even possible? I need to stay calm- for Kel and Aubrey. Hero thinks. Digging his hands into his pocket, he let out a small sigh of defeat when couldn’t feel his phone.
This was going to be scary, but they needed to get out of here.
“We need to get going.” Hero announced, taking in his surroundings one more time before proceeding to the staircase.
Kel nervously laughed, “Do we at least have a plan or something? You know, in case something ba- weird happens?”
The younger boy didn’t show it but he was really really scared of what’s happening. Again, valid- because they didn’t even know if this was real life or not.
Aubrey followed Hero but was stopped in her tracks immediately when a snake held Hero up.
There was a momentary flash of fear in Hero’s face but was soon replaced by a curious expression.
“Here’s your allowance for the day.” The snake said, giving Hero 700… clams?
“Honestly, what is this place…” Kel groaned.
Aubrey mumbled back, “I wish we knew Kel… I wish we knew.”
Once they stepped out of the room they were in, they were greeted by a flash of white- Their eyes blinded by the brightness. It took a few moments before their eyes adjusted back to normal.
“A forest?” Aubrey examines their surroundings.
“Duh, what else could this be- a park?” Kel butted in, attempting to make the mood lighter.
Hero smiled softly, “Well, there could be I guess…”
And what do you know, Hero was absolutely right.
They traveled south, reaching a park that was empty.
But was it really empty?
All the oxygen in their lungs has been knocked out. No, not because they were surprised nor scared that this pretty park is empty and void of any life- well, it’s not completely empty nor void of life when they see someone’s back that looks familiar.
Hero rubbed his eyes, he wasn’t dreaming, wasn’t he?
But this is definitely a dream.
It wasn’t his though.
His deep voice cut through the small ambiance the world they were in has. Though it was soft, almost like a whisper, this Mari looked back with the same smile they all knew and loved.
Aubrey didn’t hold back- her tears were running down her cheeks. Kel was silent, his mouth agape.
They took one long at this Mari and they immediately concluded that that was her, but not her.
It was like she had a black-and-white filter. Her clothes, skin, and the highlights of her hair were devoid of saturation and hue. But her face and the sheer warmth of her presence made them believe that this was indeed Mari. She didn’t age at all… I mean, she wasn’t even given a chance to age but to see her still younger self while Hero’s 19 and Kel and Aubrey are the same age when she… died, it felt so bizarre.
Slowly but surely, Hero approached her. The two younger companions followed suit.
“Hey there, handsome! Or maybe you prefer… What's cookin', good lookin'?”
Hero vowed to never cry in front of Kel ever again, but was it a sin to cry?
A tear- a singular tear rolled down his cheek before speaking, “Mari… Not in front of the kids at least…”
Kel sniffled, "We're not little kids anymore, dumb Hero."
Aubrey angrily wiped her tears. Fists clenching, she shoved Hero away.
“Who are you? And what are you planning to do? You think this is some joke?” Aubrey’s voice boomed.
Mari looked stunned before laughing sweetly. As much as Aubrey wanted to interpret it as if Mari was mocking her- she couldn’t. After all, Mari always laughed for a reason. Tears welled up in her eyes and before a drop could even fall- Mari spoke.
“Well, hello there Aubrey! Looking cute today,” At that moment, Aubrey just surrendered to her emotions and stayed silent, “Your hair… You probably bleached it a lot for the pink to pop out.”
“Yeah,” Aubrey said in a small voice.
“But it still looks very healthy,” Mari smiles warmly, “You always take such good care of your hair.”
“Pink looks dumb on her though…” Kel mumbled.
Mari moved a bit to the side to peek at Kel who was shying away from her gaze. With a small wow and glancing back and forth to Hero and Kel, she clasped her hands together and smiled widely.
“Kel! You’ve grown so much taller now! Much taller than Hero when he was at your age- You’re definitely gonna outgrow him.”
Kel felt his chest squeeze.
“O-of course! I drink milk everyday… And I play basketball now!”
“Is that so? Once you find Sunny, maybe the both of you could play,” Mari sighs, “That kid barely has any muscle on him.”
Aubrey huffs in amusement, “As if he would actually agree on…”
Wait, find Sunny?
“H-hold on, hold the fuck on- Find Sunny? He’s here?” Aubrey shouted in surprise, her pink hair swishing to her movements.
Mari’s smile slowly faded away and it was replaced by a troubled look.
Aubrey's mind was running a marathon right now. What was happening? Sunny is here? Find him- is he lost? Wait, why is my dead childhood friend talking to me right now. Why does she look so real. Am I alive? Is this heaven... or hell? She studied Mari's expression. She was definitely worried about something.
With an exhale, Mari stood up- considerably shorter than the rest of the gang now. Hero, Aubrey, and Kel examined her. She had a few bruises on her knees but other than that, she looks normal. Except for the lack of colors in her though.
“Do you know where you are?” Mari’s smile returned though a bit sad.
Kel opened his mouth to speak but he was cut off when Hero answered immediately, “No, we don’t know where we are.”
Aubrey, all the warmth she was feeling was gone. She felt… off. While all her attention was on Aubrey, her mind was on Sunny. What the fuck is actually going on. She wanted to say, to scream, to let out. But all she could muster out was the really confused expression on her face.
She felt a small tug on her sleeve, her eyes darting to Kel who was sweating buckets.
“Ugh, what now?”
“This is freaky…” Kel whispered to her.
“Yeah, no shit.”
Releasing his grasp on Aubrey’s sleeve, Kel paid full attention to Mari.
He let out a shaky breath, a nervous smile on his face, “So, Mari, where exactly… are we? Are we still in America?”
Mari can’t help but be amused at Kel’s question.
“What do you mean? Are we in… North America?”
“No no, you guys are still in your guys’ home,” Mari said as she pointed at Hero and Kel.
Hero’s eyebrow furrowed in confusion, “Then where are we?”
Mari took a moment before she answered.
“It’s probably weird and you guys won't believe me-”
She inhaled deeply.
“But you’re in… Sunny’s head… Sunny’s headspace… Sunny’s… Safe space. "