I see things.
I find myself sitting alone in my room far too frequently now. It's not like there's anyone who'd come by anymore. Not even Nee-chan visits now, because "you're too gloomy, Messi-kun."
I sit. That's all I do. I sit. I hear his voice, that alien urging in my mind that I find so unfamiliar. And I listen. I've given up trying to drive it out, because it's not going away. So I listen.
And I see things.
I close my eyes, and the world fades away. The temperature in the room drops, and I feel a slight breeze. Not like I've left my window open, but like I've left all four walls, floor and ceiling open. When I open them, I don't know if I'm awake or asleep, but I know that what I see is real. I find myself on a dirt Path in an open, endless field. The sky is Black, but it's not night. If it were, I could see the moon and stars. The grass is a sickly shade. And lining the Path is a row of dead trees, on which Leaves bud, emerge, and fall, all in a matter of seconds.
And it dawns on me that I've seen this place before. Once, months ago, I watched as a city alley became this Path, and a young athlete calling herself Atalanta ran into the heart of it. I didn't believe it could exist then. And I don't believe it can exist now. Even as I stand in it, it feels like I'm awake, but dreaming. As if what I see is not quite the reality, but an illusion forged by my own mind.
I pick up one of the Leaves. It's soft, like velvet, but just touching it makes my head buzz and causes me to feel ill. If I forget about the Leaves, I can barely see them, even as they're falling around me.
I left the Path once. Only once. As soon as I did, I felt terribly sick. My head started spinning, and darkness started closing around me as I forced myself to stay upright. I awoke in my apartment, sprawled on my carpet, lying in a pool of my own vomit.
So I walk. I walk along the Path, and I see where it takes me. The trip is never long. Sometimes, I meet the dead. Sometimes, I meet the living. Sometimes I know them, sometimes I don't. But it's never someone close to me. And I never remember more than what I need to know--which is, most often, simply that I encountered them. Sometimes I remember a word or two. Sometimes it's a code or password that helps me with my job. But more often than not, it's nothing.
Sometimes I find things. Things I'm supposed to have. Things I'm not supposed to have that The Boss wants me to have. A small trinket of some sort. Sometimes, it's something I'm not supposed to have. It's a clue. I don't always know what it's a clue for, but I always figure it out by my next trip into the Path.
I'll see things, and then I'll Black out, waking up in my apartment. If there's something I was supposed to have, I'm holding it. But it always fades back into my apartment. Never anywhere else. Why did The Messenger cross the Path? Clearly not to get to the other side.
On my most recent travel, I finally found the Tree.
As I reached the peak of a hill, I saw it in the valley below. Even from the distance, I could see dark blood oozing out of it like sap, a body on every branch. Most bodies I recognized. Hyde's. Caper's. Alex's. Screwtape's. Donovan's. Kyle's.
I increased my pace, even though I wanted to turn around and run. I've never run away. I've never been able to. The Path doesn't work that way.
And then I reached the foot of the Tree. The image wavered, and for a second, the branches became arms and the Tree had a body and it was Him, it was The Boss, or maybe it wasn't, and then The Boss stood before me, separate from the Tree or maybe He wasn't. And he looked at me and I saw His Face, he had a Face, but also had no Face, and I saw it though it wasn't there or didn't see it even though it was.
And He looked at me. And He spoke. Four words, spoken aloud, echoing through the air but also in my mind.
"Now Do You Understand?"
And I did. I understood, and I still understand, even though I cannot describe or explain or put it into words. I don't even understand what exactly it is that I understand.
But I do. I understand.