((Bart Cappotelli continued from Death Is The Only Freedom...))
Bart had successfully escaped the burning library with his life and his supplies. Unfortunately, that was the only thing about his current situation that he could call a success. He had been separated from his longtime allies, leaving him alone in the wilderness as the sun began to set, turning the sky a radiant shade of orange reminiscent of the flames that could easily have ended his life had he not been lucky enough to be near the library entrance when they began to spread.
Another increasing issue for Bart was fatigue. He had surprised himself with how long he had survived over the past few days, especially considering the difficulties that he had faced. However, his mad sprint from the library disaster had done a number on his stamina. He was pretty sure that he been reduced to running on adrenaline at some point, and now that the immediate fear was leaving his system, he was definitely feeling the effects. He trudged forward, barely able to summon the energy to keep himself moving. He knew that he was out of shape, and he had suspected that he wouldn't be able to keep going for much longer. Now he was fearing that he was right.
He looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the girls, or maybe a sign that they had made it out. No matter where he looked, all he could see was the overgrown plains and hills that surrounded him. He was alone, just like he was when he woke up in the cafeteria. All of the progress that he had made over the past few days forging a friendship with Kizi and Clarice, all of it could be gone now because of one freak incident. He didn't want to consider the possibility, but it was staring him in the face, refusing to leave him alone.
"Kizi!" He called out into the open fields, hoping that against all odds, he could get a reply. "Clarice!" He was desperate. He didn't want to go back to being alone again. More than anything at that moment, he wanted to see them coming over the horizon, finding him and getting back to business trying to form their community. He needed that kind of stability right now.
Bart stopped moving forward. Everything was hurting. He couldn't explain how or why, but his body was overtaken by pain. His lungs, thanks to a combination of poor cardio and a huge increase in recent activity felt like they were on fire. He brought his hand to his chest in a vain attempt to soothe himself. He slowly dropped to his knees before laying on his back, staring straight up at the sky. He was afraid. He didn't know what was happening. His limbs felt heavy and burdensome, hurting his joints when he tried to move them. He felt like he could barely keep his eyes open.
He was tired, he was sweaty, and he was miserable. He felt himself slowly drifting off, little by little. He tried his best to fight it off, but his body won out over his mind, and he succumbed to unconsciousness.
"Bart, get up."
Bart shook himself awake at the sound of a familiar voice. His immediate reaction upon opening his eyes was confusion. The last thing he remembered was lying in a field, but now he was sitting on the bus. He didn't understand what was going on. Had he been dreaming?
"Bart, did you hear me?" He turned to see the source of the voice. Jennifer was sitting next to him, looking very much alive and unhurt. "You nodded off for a while, and I didn't want you to be groggy once we got to the museum."
"Museum?" Bart said with obvious confusion. "You mean, uh... for the science trip?"
"Well, yeah." He heard another voice reply. He turned around to see Kizi and Clarice sitting in the seat across from him. "We've been talking about it for weeks. Don't you remember?" Kizi finished her comment.
"Did you get enough sleep last night?" Clarice asked with concern. "You seem kind of out of it."
Bart rubbed the back of his neck. "No, uh... I'm fine. Really. I just had a really weird dream."
A dream? Yeah, he guessed that was what it had to be. After all, there's no way that what he though had happened could be real. Jennifer was right there next to him, completely unharmed. Kizi and Clarice were perfectly fine as well. His Steven Universe shirt was perfectly fine as well, without a single sweat or grass stain on it. He was just sitting there, on the bus to the museum, not being attacked by terrorists. Everything was exactly how it should be. It sure did feel like that dream went on for an awful long time, though.
"Must have been weird if it made you forget where you were." Jennifer replied, cocking her head slightly.
"Best not to dwell on it." Kizi advised him. "Dreams aren't real, no matter how weird they are."
"Yeah." Clarice agreed. A moment later, she looked out the window and nudged Kizi's shoulder. "Hey, we're here!"
Bart looked up to confirm what she had said. Sure enough, they were pulling up to the museum. He took a sigh of relief. Finally, after waiting all semester, they were finally getting the trip they had been waiting for. Plus, it would be a great way to make him forget about that awful nightmare he just had. He waited for the bus to come to a complete stop so that they could begin offloading.
But once the bus stopped, no one stood up from their seats. The teacher's didn't give anyone any instructions, either. The only thing Bart heard was a loud bang come from the area right beside him. He turned around to see what the noise was, and immediately recoiled in horror at the sight. Jennifer was limply sprawled out next to him, with two fresh bullet wounds soaking her and the seat beneath them in blood.
His breath caught in his throat. This wasn't right! Jennifer was supposed to be alive! It was in his dream that she died! He turned to Kizi and Clarice to see if they had just seen what he had. They said nothing, nor did they move. They just stared blankly back at him, seemingly unaware of the messy corpse behind him.
"Guys... Jennifer..." He choked out, barely able to find any words to use. He couldn't complete a full thought before he heard a new sound come through the bus. A loud woosh combined with heavy crackling filled the air as flames sprung up in the bus. Bart cried out in shock as the fires slowly consumed Kizi and Clarice. They remained motionless until he could no longer see them through the raging inferno.
Now Bart had no one once again. He was the only one sitting in a burning bus. He was helpless, with no comfort or support to fall back on. It was then that he heard another voice. Unlike the girls, this one was not comforting to hear in the slightest. It was the cold, amplified voice that accompanied the announcements on the island. As the searing flames closed in on him, the voice made a single statement.
"Today, Bart Cappotelli died alone."
Bart's eyes shot open, but the rest of his body refused to move right away, likely due to shock from the nightmare. He was back in the field where he had fallen unconscious, although by the time he had woken up, it was early morning, so early that the sun had yet to rise over the horizon. It looked like he had woken up before the announcements once again.
Once his body was willing to cooperate, he sat up and got himself a drink from one of his remaining water bottles. He had been confident that he was going to die when he fell asleep, but for some reason, he was still alive.
His dream resonated with him. It was a reminder of what he was living through, and that it shouldn't be happening. It also reminded him that he couldn't let go of the past. He couldn't forget seeing Jennifer die, and he couldn't forget losing Kizi and Clarice at the library. Has it healthy to cling so tightly to those memories? He honestly couldn't say. But even if it wasn't, he couldn't force himself to forget them, nor pretend that they didn't matter. They were too important.
There was no way that he could get himself to go back to sleep after the nightmare he had just went through, so he elected to wait it out and see what the morning's announcements would have in store. Hopefully they wouldn't extinguish what little hope he still had.
((Bart Cappotelli continued in Let the Darkness Flow Through You))
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