Moe and Mikaela walked into the field tent. To the right, they spotted Sin and Frank, intently reviewing data on a screen. The room was filled with piles of books and papers. Canvases leaned against the walls, hundreds deep. Moe guided Mikaela through the maze of stacks to the desk. Frank looked up over his readers, and sighed as they approached.
“You’re going to show her? I thought we weren’t going to do that,” Frank inquired as he looked at Moe.
“She’s here, she needs to know.”
Mikaela looked between Frank and Moe, perplexed by the exchange. Frank reached below the desk and pushed a button. The door behind him unlatched and he allowed them to pass.
The room was dimly lit and lined with beds with people who appeared to be sleeping. Mikaela looked at Moe. “What is this?”
Moe hemmed a bit, then, as they continued to walk by the beds, he started to speak. “Everyone here has already tried to reopen the portal. Most of them tried to go it alone and all of them underestimated its power.”
Mikaela realized no one was stirring. “Are they…they…”
“Dead?” Moe answered sarcastically. “No!” His tone turned somber, “But, a fate much worse if we can’t fix it. They are lost in their own minds. Reality has left them and they are stuck in their own dreamland or nightmare. There is no room for reality anymore…well, at least for now.” He looked down and his steps slowed.
Mikaela picked up on his stride changing, and began to look around at the sad and empty faces around her. Then she saw him laying there. She drew in a deep breath, and her eyes began to turn red. “He didn’t.”
Moe looked down then back at her, “He did. He pushed everyone else away insisting he could handle it alone. It was weeks before the portal fully closed. He was the first to fall.”
She stepped away from Moe and floated her right hand over his left hand. The invisible tattoos on their pinkies glowed in unison. Tears rolled down her face and splashed on the back of her hand, then rolled onto his. She looked up at Moe, “Why? Why didn’t you go with him? Why didn’t someone tell me?”
Moe hesitated. “He didn’t want anyone there. Especially you.”
Mikaela paused. There was history between them, but she thought all those things were behind them and their lives had moved forward, separately. She didn’t understand.
Moe continued, “It isn’t you, it was something within him. He’ll have to share it with you, if he wants one day. But you see, no one will ever be able to work through their own thoughts or have a stable life if we don’t fix this. Including him. You may not realize, but you were headed in this direction fast when Frank pulled you back. You, however were more resilient when you recovered and it is why we decided to bring you in.”
“Pulled me back?” she quizzically asked. “What do you mean?”
Moe exhaled, then continued. “Everyone associated with us here is being monitored. The night he went in, you were impacted. You were spiraling down seeing his nightmare. Frank has a way to wake us up if he catches it, and he did just that with you that night. You might remember waking up at, what did he say, 2 AM, startled and upset. No one is still sure why Frank was monitoring you at the time, but thankfully, he was.”
Mikaela drew in another breath then sighed. She remembered that night better than she would ever share with Moe. It was the night of the nightmare she could remember. She still recalled the look on his face, the anger, the anguish, and the pain. She woke up mad at someone she didn’t even know who caused him to go through it all. And she couldn’t get back to sleep the rest of that night; she just tossed and turned.
She realized she had started holding his hand while Moe was talking. Moe slid a chair behind her so she could sit down. “I don’t understand…if Frank woke me up back then, why didn’t someone tell me earlier?”
Moe looked at her with a scornful look. “Do you know how hard it was? I’d seen you go through enough already outside of this place, outside of him. I was afraid you’d spiral faster than he did. James insisted on bringing you in though. I just hope this makes you stronger for the journey.”
Oh Lord James, he would always throw Mikaela in the deep-end after protecting her for far too long. It started when she was nine, literally. He’d never let her sink, but he knew when he threw her in, she’d find a way through.
Mikaela squeezed his hand again, wiped her face clear of the tears, and straightened herself up. “When do we head out?”
Moe replied, “At first light.” He stepped away from the bed and turned to leave. “I’ll let you have some time. We’ll have dinner around 6 in the cafeteria.” With that he walked off and let Mikaela have some privacy with him.