Night Terror is a Pixels and Polygons interlude. It can be read below.
Night Terror Edit
If he stayed really, really still, he couldn’t be hurt.
His view on the world was admittedly limited, but he could still see the edges of the eye-holes. He could almost feel the pricking sensations against his skin, cold unforgiving metal against soft flesh. If he moved, he would die. He hated these yellow suits--Hated them with a passion. He wanted to get out. But if he moved, he would die.
You will die, but it will be slow. You’ll feel your organs punctured, the suit will grow wet with your blood, and you will know you are dying for long, long minutes.
He was just a kid. In what world was this fair?
Something was moving. He could just barely twitch his eyes over to follow the shape. It looked like it was made of mist, viscous mist, viscous purple mist that looked almost human but not really human. Maybe it wasn’t mist, it was purple blood. But blood can’t be purple. He didn’t know. He didn’t have a whole lot of time to ponder, either. The thing seemed to slowly walk (or possibly glide) toward him, staring him down with eyes too big to be human but too deep to be anything else. It stared at him. Then it leaned forward. There weren’t any words in his mouth to protest, and even if he could he wasn’t sure if he should, what if he died by exhaling--The thing put it’s hand on his chest.
It pushed down, and for a second he thinks that all those stories were true he can’t think he cannot swallow he’s drowning he’s drowning and--
The boy sat up with a shuddering gasp, his mask going askew, rendering him unable to see. For a moment, he couldn’t breathe. But then he reached one hand up to readjust his mask, looking up. It was his roommate, a female with rumpled pink hair and big yellow eyes. “I didn’t hear your alarm go off, wanted to make sure you’d get up. You don’t always sleep with your mask on, do you?”
That made him pause. Both hands went up, feeling his mask--More of a vacant animatronic head than a mask, gutted from all it’s metal insides--And squeezing the nose once or twice to make it squeak. It was his mask. It wasn’t one of the yellow suits at all. Oh thank L.O.G. “No, I...Don’t.” He mumbled, then, “Well--Sorry, I, I thought I set my alarm, I was up late again and y’know I h-had a bad nightmare--I mean, more sleep paralysis, but--”
“Sleep paralysis?” Her face morphed into one of shock and concern. “Oh, oh, I didn’t know--”
“Look, it’s really--It’s not--That big a deal, just, happens once or twice, shouldn’t have fallen asleep with…” He reached a hand up, knocking on the side of his mask. “This on.” Parker pushed the rumpled mess of blankets off of him, his pink Freezer Bunny doll falling onto the floor unceremoniously. He reached his hands through the bottom of his mask, rubbing his face to try and jar him into wakefulness. “...It’s fine. I’m fine.”
She didn’t seem convinced. The girl took a step back, pulling an arm over her head to stretch a bit. “You sure? I can walk you to class if you want me to--”
“No--No. I...I really...That’s nice, Macaron. Really. But--I can walk today. It’s not so bad.” He got up slowly, stepping on his stuffed animal, kicking it aside. “Lemme...Just get dressed. I’ll be fine this time. I will.”
With an exhale, Macaron pushed the room divider aside again, slipping away. “Short Snake’s here if you need him!”
“...You know, as the only h-history teacher in this building, it can be hard remembering all these names, okay? So I’m just going to go through one more time. I’ll make it quick.”
Mr. Bonaparte was a tall man. Mostly leg. He always looked like he never had enough sleep at night, and he would twitch if he was remembering something painful, and he looked kind of like a weird bird. So the fact that Parker found Mr. Bonaparte relatable wasn’t much of a surprise, and he really did try his best not to fall asleep during third hour history.
But, L.O.G. almighty, it was hard.
“Scaredy? Okay, good. Then there’s…”
He was already bouncing his leg as it was, hoping desperately that would keep him awake. It didn’t. He could feel his eyes half-closing already.
“Gage? P-Parker Gage?”
“Here!” His eyes shot open, the mask rattling a bit as he flinched upwards. He heard some people laugh at his sudden movement, and he slumped back down. Had to find a way to stay awake. Had to.
“Lucidia? Yeah, I can see you, stop waving now.”
Maybe he could count the students in this room. Would give him something to do. One, two, three…
“Hey, Teglee. Dad’s doing well?”
Eleven, twelve, and why didn’t that girl ever sit in a desk? Whatever, thirteen.
“And...Ume, right? Ume Smith? I heard you had to transfer into this hour, that’s why you’re at the end…”
Thirty-nine. There were thirty-nine students in Mr. Bonaparte’s third hour history class. Yet--And here Parker had to count on his fingers just to be sure--Yet Mr. Bonaparte had only called out thirty-eight names, including the one who recently switched hours. He looked over at the blonde girl sitting on the desk, squinting his eyes at her--But looked away quickly. What did dad always tell him about hallucinations? Ignore them, and they’ll ignore you.
“Now, er, today we’re going to go through a quick lesson on a pretty important game convention: Narrators! While some people argue we should teach this in English...Well, narrators can have a really interesting effect on, well, a lot of historic games, and it’s pretty important that you know about them. B-besides, keeps me away from having to talk about the military again…”
Some students got out their notebooks for this. Parker adjusted his mask one more time, starting to pick at a couple of his scabs in an attempt to stay awake.
“Narrators can come in one of three types: Story, character, and location.”
It didn’t work. Parker hated his nightmares so, so much. They always did this to him. He liked Mr. Bonaparte, he really did…
“...And they usually all start with physical forms. Er, usually. They lose their body sometime around the point where…”
“I don’t know how you find this class so interesting. You already know everything you need to.”
Parker flinched a little bit again. It was that weird girl, the one on the desk. He shot her a look, but she didn’t seem to notice. He looked back forward.
“...Which means the difference between, um, say, Viewtiful Joe and Dear Esther. The former’s a character narrator, and the latter’s more of a, uh, a story…”
“I told you we could have skipped this class, Scaredy. And now here we are, being bored to tears. Bored to tears! That’s really quite rude, don’t you think?”
His eyes twitched over to the desk. “C-can you please be quiet?” He asked her through gritted teeth.
“...Parker?” Mr. Bonaparte paused in his lecture, looking at Parker with a slightly quizzical look. “I-Is something bothering you there?”
Parker looked over to the girl on the desk, sitting just behind Scaredy in an an empty spot. Mr. Bonaparte followed his gaze over, yet stayed quiet. “Um…” Parker began, tilting his head towards the desk, but this didn’t warrant any new reaction from Mr. Bonaparte. He sunk down in his seat. “...J-just hallucinating. That’s it. That’s all.”
Mr. Bonaparte gave him a pitying look. “Do...Do you want to go and see Voltar?”
“N-no, no, Mr. Bonaparte. I’ll be fine.”
He didn’t seem quite ready to believe Parker, but nevertheless he went back to the lecture on narrators. Parker moved his eyes away from both the teacher and the girl on the desk, looking at the grooves in the fake-wood.
“Hey, hello, dad? I...I know you’re probably busy, but I just wanted to call again. My...Dreams are getting worse. But...But it’s--It’s okay, dad. I don’t want you worrying about me. Dad? I know you’ve had a lot of...Of hallucinations, but...Did you ever have ones with...People in them? Y’know. Hypothetically speaking. Call me back before night shift. And...And dad? I love you.”
The next few days, Parker couldn’t catch a break.
Usually when Parker hallucinated, it was only for an hour, tops. But no matter where Parker went, he seemed to always catch a glimpse of that strange blonde girl. She kept showing up in history class, she would pass him by in the halls, she was in the cafeteria never eating anything. She was here, and she was there, and in Parker’s eyes she was everywhere.
Sometimes Macaron would notice him looking a little more paranoid than usual, and would sit him down and ask to talk about it. She would let Short Snake slither up and down his arms, and that would usually calm him down for the time being. But Macaron didn’t know anything about hallucinations--Not like this. All she saw were letters having colors to them, not people stalking around the halls.
At lunchtime about a week after the first incident, Parker decided it would be beneficial to perhaps eat lunch in the school’s courtyard. He could take his mask off and be alone and breathe the fresh air. That sounded like a good plan. So, holding his food close, Parker began to creep down the hallways toward the courtyard.
“...Look, Scaredy! It’s that silly boy again.”
Parker froze. His eyes twitched, looking just out the corner of his mask’s eyeholes. There she was. She was looking squarely at him, face slightly red as though she was holding in laughter. “It looks like he’s scared of you, Scaredy! Isn’t that just the worst? You’re not scary--At least, I’d say you’re not, not at all! You really should punish him--And show him there’s nothing to fear!”
Ever so slowly, his head turned. There she was, of course, but she was standing just a bit in front of that plush bear--Scaredy, probably. She made a small squeaking noise, shuffling back a step upon being noticed just standing there staring at Parker.
“Well? C’mon, Scaredy. He does look very, very frail! It should be rather easy to accomplish, I think.”
Parker’s hands tensed around his lunch, his eyes nervously watching the teddy bear and her accomplice in anticipation of them rushing after him and finally ending his pathetic miserable excuse for a life. The bear made a couple squeaks and hurriedly moved backwards again, shaking her head.
“Scaredy, if he’s scared of you, it’ll leave quite a bad mark on your reputation! You don’t want to be feared and hated, do you? Everyone will hate you if you don’t take out one small little naysayer.”
A few students began to brush past Scaredy, the girl, and Parker, apparently also on their way to the courtyard. The one bringing up the rear, a male, paused in his steps. The sight of him seemed to distract the girl, and she crossed her arms and stuck her nose in the air with a huff. “Oh, look now, Scaredy! It’s the pompous brat! This day just goes from very bad to so much worse, and all so soon, too!”
“I thought we discussed, Natalie, that you would promptly lay off.” The male replied, slightly through his teeth. His eyes moved over to Parker, seeing the boy tremble slightly, and he let out an exhale. “...If you knew what’s good for you you’d pay her no heed. All bark.”
“U-um--Do, do you mean her the bear, or her the--The blonde?”
The comment made him slightly quirk an eyebrow, eyes moving up to the bear and girl as though for clarity on the matter. He got none, as both of them turned around and were moving in the opposite direction. Parker watched them go, then began mentally scolding himself (well, of course he meant her the bear, he can’t actually see the girl--) as he twitched his head over to watch the male continue his trek. Over his shoulder, the male called, “Her the blonde.”
Parker made a few tongue-tied babbles to get a grasp on his thoughts, then called “Wait!”, rushing up to be alongside the male. “You--You see her?”
The male’s hand adjusted his spectacles in blatant irritation. “‘That much should be obvious,’ the Storyteller mused under his breath…”
“And you’re--You’re not--You aren’t hallucinating!?”
“‘For the sake of my sanity,’ he replied, ‘I should hope not.’” The male (who seemed to call himself the Storyteller) pushed open the door to the courtyard, then once outside began to push it closed, perhaps trying to be rid of Parker; but the latter male was right on his heels. “Granted, I should say, it isn’t everyone that can see the...Charming,” The word seemed to be heavily sarcastic, “Miss Natalie. An easy mistake to make, I’d suppose.”
While his mask served to muddle it, the confusion Parker was feeling was more than blatant in his eyes. The Storyteller sat down on one of the picnic benches and pushed up his sleeves slightly in order to begin eating. Parker sat down across from him (making the Storyteller’s nose slightly crinkle in irritation). “But--I’m--I’m not magic! Only magic people see things like that, I-I mean, Mr. Weber says--Are you magical?”
He took the plastic lid off of his soup. “The Storyteller implored this inquisitive boy to define ‘magical’.”
“Y-Y’know, like, a wizard? Hocus-pocus mumbo-jumbo?”
This made the Storyteller’s eyelids lower, taking a cracker and crumbling it into his soup. “With that definition now in mind, no, I’m not magical. I am merely a narrator, not a wizard.”
“A nar…” He began to parrot back, but his mind began to wander. The Storyteller was a narrator and he could see Natalie. But...But he wasn’t a narrator. Dad would have told him, right? Right? Dad knew everything! ...Or close to everything. Or something! Augh, now he wished he’d paid more attention during Mr. Bonaparte’s lesson on this. “A narrator, l-like, a real one? I mean...Really real?”
The Storyteller let out another exhale. “Implying there’s fake ones…” He mumbled, adjusting his glasses once again. “‘Yes,’ the Storyteller replied with a slight touch of indignance in his tone, ‘A real narrator. In the flesh.’ Truly this was a spectacle to behold, the guest the Storyteller had for lunch looked completely...Enraptured.”
‘Enraptured’ was not the right emotion to describe Parker. More like ‘confused’. Maybe ‘mildly concerned’, too. Parker watched the Storyteller consume a few spoonfuls of his soup, his mind racing too fast to even think about touching his own food. The Storyteller was a narrator, and he could see Natalie, and Parker could see Natalie too, but-- “M-my dad’s just a-a tutorial-giver! He, well, urk, he doesn’t--He doesn’t narrate!”
“Um...F-five Nights at Fr-Freddy’s?”
“Really? That trite, overdone nonsense?” The Storyteller sounded genuinely pitying, which made Parker give a small sigh. He got that a lot. The Storyteller waved his spoon, dismissing the thought. “Now, you must forgive the Storyteller on this, for he doesn’t like to indulge in repetitive cheap thrills with fanbases large enough to choke a large ox--What character?”
“...The, the, um…” Parker curled in his fingers, save his pinkie and thumb, to make a phone shape. He pulled it up to his ear. “...The ph-phone guy? Ring ring, hello, hello? Y’know…?”
The Storyteller gave a small hum, adjusting his glasses and rolling his eyes away as though in thought. “Of course,” He said, in a tone that implied he knew it all along. “Yes, certainly a tutorial character and ticks all of the usual boxes, however...Have you ever seen your father?”
That caught Parker a little off guard, and he babbled wordlessly for a moment before saying, “Well, no, not recently--He’s b-been stuck on the night shift f-for a really long time…”
“So you haven’t seen him. How do you know he hasn’t given up his physical form, losing all memories of a life before?”
Parker blanched. Nervously his fingers began picking on one of the many scabs on his arms, fingers slightly trembling. “...Because he calls me.” His voice was soft, and realizing that, flinched and piped up, “I mean--He leaves a lot of messages on my answering machine, and h-he always helps me, and he remembers things fr-from when I was very small and did see h-his body a lo-lot more, like, like the camping tr-trip we went on when I was st-still in boy scouts...That’s h-how I know.”
The Storyteller paused, eating one or two contemplative spoonfuls of soup. “Certainly not a full narrator...Perhaps a character? But that couldn’t be, what of…” But then he paused and chuckled to himself, shaking his head. “Of course! A place. You said he has been ‘on the night shift’ for a while--He’s a narrator of place, at least partially; telling the story of that...Disgusting chain of pizzerias is his job. Aha, yes. Another brilliant deduction by the Storyteller, worthy of the great Hershel Layton himself…”
...Place. Mr. Bonaparte had said narrators could be tied to places. But...His dad would have told him, and...Parker thought that this would answer his questions about his hallucinations, about Natalie, but now he had a lot more questions than he had answers. “...Um, well...Th-thanks for helping me. Fr-from Nat. I really...Appreciated it.”
He smiled broadly, nodding. “‘And should you require more assistance,’ the Storyteller graciously offered, ‘I would be happy to give it.’”
“I’ll keep th-that in mind.” Without so much as eating anything, Parker stood up from the table, adjusting his vest and beginning to slip away...But he paused, looking back at the Storyteller from over his shoulder. “Er...One--One more thing. D-do you have weird dreams?”
“Hm? Ah, yes. It’s a commonly speculated theory that narrators can have dreams of any possible ending to unfold in their story. Why?”
“...In all m-my dr-dreams...I’m mur-murdered.”
The Storyteller went quiet for a moment, but once more, he waved it off dismissively. “Well, then, that’s your problem, isn’t it?”
Parker wasn’t reassured in the slightest. But he exhaled, nodded, and left the courtyard without having eaten and without having said goodbye.
That night, Macaron let Parker play with Short Snake again for a while. The color was back in his neck and his hands weren’t shaking anymore, which Macaron figured could only mean good things. She stuck a band-aid on the newly bleeding spot where a scab was picked off, and as he went back behind the room divider, wished him good night.
He took off his mask, setting it on the floor beside his bed. Then he rubbed his face, mumbling to himself that this room was safe and nobody, and nothing, could hurt him in here. He got into his pajamas and picked up his Freezer Bunny doll, squeezing it once or twice. He got into bed, then picked up his phone, hoping to make a few last-minute calls to a few people, as he usually did.
There was a voicemail. He played it.
“Uh, hello? Hello, hello? Hey, kiddo. Uh, sorry I’m kind of late--You kind of called on a bad night, and I didn’t wanna put anything else on your mind, it...It was kind of bad for me. But I hope your dreams are getting better, uh, you really don’t deserve all that. You’re a good kid. Uh, to answer your question, no, I haven’t really hallucinated people...But I guess anything can happen, right? Maybe if I stick around this place any longer, I’ll start! Hah...Hah. Yeah. So, uh, be sure to call back when you can, okay, kiddo? You know I love hearing from you. I’ll try to get back soon, uh, I’m not quite sure what night it is tonight, but I shouldn’t be...Gone. For too long. I love you, okay? Be good. I love you.”
Parker smiled to himself.