Meeting in a Dream

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This interlude deals with serious psychological issues and contains implied acts of violence.
As such, reader discretion is advised.
Meeting in a Dream Children of Ursus
Previous The Chosen
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Vanguard Operator
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Bullied Student
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School Hall
Peterheim High
RI Room
<Background 1>
It's morning. I come out of my room as usual.
Mother Sonya, are you finished washing up?
Sonya I'm not a kid anymore, mom.
Mom calls to me from the kitchen, where she's cooking. I sit down at the table to wait for my piping hot breakfast.
Breakfast would normally be a bowl of porridge served with bread and ham. I guess she wants to lose weight, so we only have oatmeal porridge.
Fine by me.
Dad sits reading the papers. Everything in them is always so boring. Political and economic stuff I have no interest in.
Why don't they run stories about my glorious accomplishments?
Father Sonya, how's school going?
This again.
Doesn't he get tired of going through these motions twice a day? It's only ever at breakfast and dinner that he pretends to care.
Sonya ...Fine.
Father You're in seventh grade already. It's time you start behaving.
Why? I'm only in seventh grade.
Father And have you decided what you'll do after you finish ninth?
Sonya ...Not yet.
After ninth grade, I have to decide whether I'll keep studying or go to technical school to learn a trade.
I know Dad would rather I go to trade school. And I'm sure he's about to say so.
Father I think you should...
Mother Don't push your hangups onto your daughter. Did you find work yet?
Mom interrupts Dad as she carries our breakfast out of the kitchen.
Father ...I have an interview today.
Since losing his job, Dad's struggled to look Mom in the eye. Not that it was much better before.
Mother You have to put aside your pride, Pierre. We can't eat dignity.
Father I know. I'm trying, Anna.
Mom cares a lot more about my studies than Dad. She wants me to stay in school after graduation. She's even saved up money for it.
She always talks about how you couldn't go all the way through ninth grade for free in her day.
And at the same time, acknowledge how lucky she was to have been a maid to the nobility.
She finished her studies at a girls' school, which let her get a pretty good job, even in a lousy economy like this one.
Sometimes, I wish I could be a good girl for her. Too bad I can't.
Mother If only you were. Come on, Sonya, eat up. You don't want to miss the bus.
Sonya I know.
I look down at my breakfast, baffled by the strange look of it all—A sad little glop of porridge, half a slice of bread, and a suspiciously shaped ham.
Sonya Mom... what's this?
Mother What do you mean? It's the same thing we eat every day.
Sonya No it isn't!
Sonya? Did you forget?
A girl who looks exactly like me appears at the table.
Sonya Who are you? Why do you look like me?
Sonya? I am you.
She's me? That's ridiculous. Then who am I?
Sonya? You're Sonya.
This makes no sense.
But even weirder is how Mom and Dad have no reaction to this doppelganger popping up at our table.
Father Sonya, what are you daydreaming about? Eat your breakfast.
Oh, I get it. This is a nightmare. That's the easiest explanation. Hah. It's just some weird-looking food. I've had scarier dreams.
Sonya? Those were fantasies you pulled from comics and games.
You used to think unbelievably powerful things were the scariest.
A column of tanks, a giant monster, your father's fist. Something simple and cruel.
What is she saying? How could she know?
Sonya What's it to you? You're just a figment of my imagination too. How else would you know what I'm thinking?
Sonya? Take a closer look at the food you're holding.
Sonya What...?!
It's not porridge. It's rice in water with some weeds mixed in. It's nothing like Mom's cooking!
The bread... it's bread, but it smells terrible, like it's been left out for days on end.
...But how should I know that?
The ham looks like it's been torn off a bigger hunk of flesh, and it smells almost... fishy. Wait, is this... blood?!
Sonya ...*Puke*.
It's just a nightmare!
Sonya? But you've never had one like this. And it feels so real. It's as if...
I get the sense that my doppelganger wants to tease me, but teacher always says teasing is a way of making yourself happy by hurting others.
And she doesn't look happy.
Either way, I know I can't let her get away with it.
Even if the food's a bit worse, does that make a life not worth living?
I have to shut her up and get to school!
Sonya Shut up!
I know the best way to deal with somebody mouthing off: my fists.
Sonya? Doesn't it feel just like you've actually eaten it?
<Background black>
I clench my fist and lunge at her, but she's one step ahead.
<Background 2>
My right hook slams hard into the face of the boy in front of me.

The feeling of bone crushing against skin is comforting, in a way.

Student A Gah!
Student B S– so strong. I thought for sure a dozen of us would be enough, but she wiped the floor with us...
Sonya Blyat'![note 1] Even weak cubs like you want to play bully? It'll take more than that.
Student C *Spit*, go. Just you wait, General Zima, this isn't over!
Honestly, I like the name "General Zima."
It's badass.
But these punks always come at me while I'm trying to nap. Don't they know I usually skip afternoon class?
Bullied Student Err, thanks, General Zima.
Sonya Huh? You're still here? You didn't run away?
Bullied Student I wanted to thank you this time.
This time?
Bullied Student Oh, you don't recognize me? My name is Valeria. This isn't the first time you've had to save me.
Now that she mentions it, the yellow bow in this girl's hair does look familiar.
Was it last week? Or last month? I'm pretty sure I helped her, yeah.
Bullied Student You saved my friends too. We're all so thankful to you.
Looking at her bright, shiny face, some of her happiness infects me. But I still have to keep up appearances.
Sonya I just can't stand these shitheads pushing the little people around.
And you need to work up some courage. If you were braver, they'd be the ones scared of you.
Bullied Student Yes... You're right. I'll try.
Sonya Good. Now get out of here.
Bullied Student Bye. And thanks again!
She yells back as she runs off.
Sonya Hm?
Is it just me, or is everything in the classroom much dirtier than it was?
Eh, whatever. Back to my nap.
I pull four chairs together and lay down.
Sonya What's that?
My back is pressing into something.
I reach behind me and pull out a yellow bow.
It looks so familiar. But it's dirty, and one side is broken.
Sonya Huh?!
The back of the bow is stained a dark black color, like...
Sonya ...It must be ketchup.
I toss the bow aside and go back to sleep.
But before I can slip into my slumber, I hear a voice.
<Background fades out>
Sonya? You found this bow later, in one of the classrooms.
Admit it, you know she is dead.
<Background fades in>
The classroom door suddenly flies open, interrupting my nap.
A girl with glasses walks in, carrying a book. I can tell from her uniform that she doesn't go to this school.
??? Excuse me, is anyone else here?
Sonya This is my territory. I'm the only one allowed in.
??? Sorry, but my friends and I are looking for shelter...
Um, are you... Sonya?
Sonya You're... Anna?
Anna used to be my neighbor. I haven't seen her in years, since we moved, but...
Sonya Take another classroom.
Honestly, she asked nicely, and it's not like we didn't get along before. I don't really want to turn her down.
But things have gotten rough among the kids here since the first fire. I had to fight off three gangs today alone.
Anna I know this might bother you, Sonya, but...
Voice Outside the Door There's only one inside, Anna. Let's just chase her away.
Oh, okay. Time for another fight.
Anna Then we'd be no different from the robbers. That isn't us.
...Anna's the same as she ever was. A peacemaker.
??? Right. Um, I'm Lada, and I'm a pretty good cook. What if I made you something to eat in return for letting us hide here?
I have to say, that's a pretty tempting offer. It's been a while since I've had something that didn't just come out of a can.
Sonya Okay. You can stay. But watch your step. I'm Sonya. And you don't mess with me.
Voice Outside the Door Did she just say Sonya...? Is that actually "General Zima?!"
She's famous even over at our school. She's easily the strongest girl in the district.
Voice Outside the Door
I have to say, I enjoy the acclaim. But the best part is seeing the face of a good girl like Anna turn upside down when she hears it.
Anna Thank you, Sonya. We'll try not to bother you.
...Damn. No reaction. Lame.
After I give my permission, she leads her whole caravan in.
The first bunch are a mix of girls and boys. Their clothes are pretty ragged, their hair all messy, and they clearly haven't slept in days.
Then behind them...
What the hell?!
A bunch of empty, floating school uniforms?!
And at the very back of the crowd is me.
Sonya? Floating sailor suits, huh? That's quite a coping mechanism.
Sonya What are you talking about?! I mean, who even are you?!
Sonya? I'm you. And you're dreaming, idiot.
Sonya Mmh. Agh.
That makes sense. Something like this has to be a dream... But why did I just call myself an idiot?!
Sonya? I mean, at least it's better than a bunch of headless zombies.
Sonya What do you mean? Why would there be headless zombies?
Sonya? Because you killed them all.
Why would I do that?
Sonya? Because they were going to attack you. Weren't they, Istina?
Anna There was no other way. They forced your hand.
Sonya? Right. As long as there's a good reason for it, violence is okay. That's how I roll.
Anna Is that really what you think?
Sonya? I always believed I was doing the right thing.
This is pretty weird, even for a dream. My doppelganger is having a conversation with a girl I barely know, as if they're old friends. But all reason tells me they're both just figments of my imagination.
That reminds me, shouldn't I have woken up as soon as I realized I was in a dream?
The instant that thought pops into my head, everyone in the room but my doppelganger and the floating uniforms turn to fix their eyes on me.
Every face bears a twisted smile.
They surround me.
Everyone You are our leader. You should stay here. You should lead us.
I try to find the other me.
But she's gone.
<Background fades out and in>
Sonya Ugh...
My eyes shoot open.

The room around me is still the classroom. It's late at night. The others are asleep. I'm slumped up against the door. There is another door, but I barricaded it with my desk. The windows have all been sealed. The door next to me is the only way in or out. I am their leader. I have to protect them.

Anna You can't sleep, Sonya?
I hear Anna's voice nearby.
It's been three days since she and her partner joined us. There was some unpleasantness in that time, but Anna sided with me in the end.
Sonya Yes. I had a nightmare.
Anna ...Don't let it get to you. You did nothing wrong.
I can't remember what I was dreaming about, but Anna must be thinking it was something to do with them.
She feels bad about it. She never imagined the classmates she trusted would go so far as to attack me just because she asked me to lead them.
I killed them all, of course.
I've seen lots of groups fall apart because of little conflicts like this. It's why I didn't want to join a group in the first place. I'd rather communicate with my fists than try to manage relationships.
Sonya Don't worry.
I hear a rustling as she moves over to me.
I know she wants to comfort me, but it's obvious she's the one who needs comforting. I should change the subject.
Sonya Anna, were you your class president?
Anna No.
Sonya So how did you end up with so many followers?
Anna I was actually very uncomfortable trying to play leader. But Lada kept pushing me, and I just felt... like I had to do something.
Sonya Aha! You did have to do something!
Anna You're teasing me.
...But really, when the kids in my class would bully each other, I knew it was wrong. But I just kept to myself. Kept away from it.
Sonya You should've kicked their asses. You're a tough girl.
It's true. She may look the bookish type, but Anna's really very good in a fight. She just doesn't like to apply herself.
Anna If only I was as brave as you. I can never find the courage to stand up to people.
Oops, she sounds even sadder than before. I really don't know how to comfort a girl. What can I say to cheer her up?
Sonya ...At– at least you're standing up now.
That's the best you could come up with, Sonya?!
Anna ...Because I believe it's wrong. At least, that's what I thought at first.
Sonya What's wrong?
Anna This. All of it.
We've been locked up in this school for eight days. Everything keeps getting worse.
Sonya It's all because of that first fire. If it wasn't for the fire...
After the fire destroyed one of the food pantries, the noble students from #4 Secondary School occupied the other one. Then they started looting.
You still see commoners fighting over food.
The school looks like a war zone. Debris and graffiti everywhere. And every night is set against the sounds of kids yelling, screaming, crying.
Anna Perhaps, but don't you think that fire was bound to happen sooner or later?
Sonya Are you saying someone started it on purpose?
Anna No. Hrm. How should I put this...? Let me think.
It's more like that which the fire represents would have come about no matter what.
Sonya I somehow understand even less.
Anna Even without the fire, something would have happened to send us all into a panic... Is that clearer?
Sonya Weird. It must've been the bad guys who set the fire. The bad guys...
Anna There are always bad guys.
Sonya ......
I don't think that's right. But I don't know how to argue with her either.
Anna I once read a book that said human nature is evil.
I thought it strange at the time. We've built such civilized societies. We live lives of order and morality. How can we be inherently evil?
It is with this in mind that I was able to muster the courage to gather everyone up and maintain order.
But things kept getting worse. And I did nothing about it.
I didn't restore order. I didn't save anyone. And without you, my classmates might have already killed me...
I'm useless.
Her voice is teetering on the brink of tears.
Aaagh, I made this so much worse!
Whatever. I don't know shit about morals, order, society or any of that. But I understand what she's getting at, so I might as well start talking.
Sonya What you're saying is you now think everyone does bad stuff? Including me?
Anna ...That's not what I meant.
Now she sounds surprised. Hah, I got her good with that one.
I fight a lot, but they always deserve it!
Sonya Okay, don't be sad. I'll help you.
Anna ...You will?
Sonya I'm your leader. And you want to do good. Of course I'll help you.
Anna ...Thank you, Sonya.
Sonya Hey, isn't it customary for a group to get a new name when it gets a new leader? You got any ideas?
Anna Let's go with... the "Ursus Student Self-Government Group."
...I probably shouldn't have expected much out of an honor student.
But I guess a straightforward, brass tacks name like that is okay, every once in a while.
Sonya All right. From this day forward, we will be known as the "Ursus Student Self-Government Group." I lead the group, and you are my counselor.
Anna ...Right.
Sonya? You heard the relief in her voice, and it made you happy.
Because you finally protected something. You earned someone's trust. You started feeling like a real leader, like a hero out of one of those novels.
Who are you?
Sonya? I'm you. Are you blind?
Sure, she does look exactly like me... But why am I raking myself over the coals like this?
And it freaks me out the way she always says what I'm thinking. Not to mention her creepy tone of voice.
Sonya? It's no fun for me either. But every time I think back on this night, I want to laugh at myself.
Is that my fault? Or yours?
I don't know. And I'm not going to ask you.
Anna ......
Sonya? I'm scared you'll say it was your fault. And I'm just as scared you'll say it was mine.
Anna ......
<Background black>
Suddenly, I realize the floor beneath my feet has become a bottomless void.
And I start to fall.
As I fall, I hear disjointed voices calling out.
??? Think about it, Anna! Sonya alone can't protect all of us!
The only choice is to join them.
Anna Sonya hates the aristocrats, Vika.
??? So you're going to risk all our lives?!
Anna I...
That's when the darkness begins to swallow me.
<Background 3>
I drop down from the second story window, landing steadily on the ground.
They'll catch me if I take the main entrance, so this is my only way.
There's something I have to do. Something very important to me.
I understand Anna. Vika's idea makes sense. And I'm not so full of myself I think I can take all those noble shitstains on my own.
At least, I couldn't take them head-on.
They're definitely asleep this late at night. Now's the time to take them all out once and for all.
Well, maybe killing them all is a bit much. Capturing their leader should do the trick. But really, I'll have to cut off the head to let the body die, at least...
[The students fight against each other.]
Student A Please, let me go!
Student B Helllp!
Student C Hand over the food you've been hoarding!
Student A We... we don't have any food, I swear!
Student B Please!
I'm not going to save them.
Not only because I'm busy. I also don't care.
I've seen so much of this these past two days.
I saved a few. And now we've got more kids holed up in the classroom than when Anna showed up with her classmates.
So Anna had to listen to Vika.
But the truth is, even though she told her I don't like nobles, it's actually Anna who hates the aristocrats more than anything.
When those shitheads took the last remaining food store and left the rest of the kids to fight over scraps, that was the last straw for Anna.
Sonya She doesn't want to join them.
And I sure as hell can't change her mind. So it would be nice if the cause of all her worries here just... went away.
I think to myself, as I press on, leaving the screams to fade away behind me.
Sonya Hm? That tree was still standing yesterday. Who's bored enough to go around chopping down trees, I...?!
I suddenly trip over something, barely keeping myself upright.
I look down to see a fallen road sign, already covered in illegible graffiti.
Sonya Hrm.
It's only been ten days since they locked us in here, but the school looks like it's been abandoned for years.
Pockmarked walls, graffiti, litter, blood...
Honestly, I hate it. And I don't know when it will finally end.
I hang my head and press forward, to the fancy scumbags' base. It's in this warehouse, with the last of our food.
And who do I see standing there? Me.
Sonya Who are you?
Sonya? I'm you.
[Not sure why, but I actually wasn't that surprised.]
Sonya? You'll be charging into this warehouse in a minute.
You wanted to go right for their leader, but you were never very good at sneaking, so you got caught, and you had to face down a phalanx of fancy rich kids.
You're strong, Sonya. You almost managed to break through them.
But you've always been so reckless. You knocked over a lovely candelabra, and, well...
[My doppelganger suddenly vanishes, and all I can see before me is a pure, fiery red.]
Sonya I lit the second fire.
The blaze destroyed the nobles' stronghold, and all the food along with it.
Nothing could be saved. And in Anna's parlance, the fire burned down the final barrier to the students' indiscriminate and chaotic struggle that followed.
<Background fades out and in>
Student A The aristocrats from #4 Secondary School are all gone! Grab what you can!
Student B I saw those nobles over there! Kill them before they get away!
Student C Back off! I haven't eaten in three days! I'm looking for food!
Student B What did you just say?!
Student C I said get the hell away from me!
<Background black>
Sonya The school descended even further into chaos. Now, nowhere is safe.
Some of our Self-Government Group have gone missing. Vika never came back.
<Background 2>
Student A Piss off!
Student B It's mine!
Student C Ah... ugh... help...
<Background fades out>
Sonya One day, I can't remember which, Reunion suddenly left.
But they never actually did anything other than lock us inside. And the chaos continued, as if the students didn't even notice they were gone.
As if they were enjoying the chaos.
<Background fades in>
Rosalind Hey, the Reunion guys guarding the school are gone!
Anna Hm...
Rosalind We can finally leave! Why don't you look excited, Anna?
Natalya It doesn't matter anymore.
Ever since the first fire, none of this had anything to do with Reunion.
<Background black>
Sonya But we were not ready to escape the chaos. And the next day, the Catastrophe came.
The Catastrophe shook everyone.
It was then that it became clear that they could all leave.
It was also then that we realized things were even worse outside the school.
Devastation of Chernobog.png
Natalya Is this... a Catastrophe...?
Anna What in the world happened...?
Lada Aaaaaahhh! I'm scared!
Rosalind Anna, we need to get out of here now!
Anna But... where can we go?
<Background black>
Sonya After that, we took refuge in the part of the city that wasn't overgrown with Originium, hiding from other survivors, hiding from Reunion.
In the end, a Rhodes Island squad rescued us, and took us back to their base.
[Amidst the silence...]
Vanguard Operator Who's there?!
Sonya ......
Vanguard Operator A kid?!
She's armed!
Sonya ...Kiss my ass.
Vanguard Operator Wait, we're here to rescue survivors!
Sonya ...Huh?
Vanguard Operator Calm down. We're with an organization called Rhodes Island. You're safe now.
[After a short period of silence...]
Sonya I survived. We survived.
But I failed to do away with all Anna's worries. Honestly, I let her down.
[After a short period of silence...]
Anna Sonya, the students never would have become like this without the fire.
Sonya It– it was an accident!
Anna I don't blame you, Sonya. But if you had discussed it with me beforehand...
Sonya I just wanted you to be able to sleep at night.
<Background 2>
Istina Zima, I'm still willing to trust you.
Zima But I don't know how to talk to you about these things.
<Background 1>
Sonya? You're guilty.
Sonya I'm not.
<Background 3>
Gummy You deserve to die.
Sonya It wasn't that bad.
<Background 2>
Rosa You let me go because you felt guilty.
Sonya I didn't want to kill you.
<Background 1>
Rosalind Don't beat yourself up. You made a mistake is all.
Sonya I can't stop thinking about it!
<Background 3>
Anna I hate you.
Sonya I...
<Background black>
Sonya Waaaaahhhh!
<Background 4>
Zima ...aaaaaaaaaaaahhh!
[Zima woke up from her PTSD-induced nightmares and vomits on the washstand.]
Zima *Puke*...
That dream again.
Anna, I...
<Background black>
The brown-haired girl slumps up against the washstand and stares out the window. The moon looks lovely this evening.


  1. Cyrillic: Блядь; "F**k" in Russian