The『D』Project Ch. 3
Amy: "Dee! Look! I'm swinging so high!"
We were at a playground inside a [FRAGMENT]. The playground was located within a very quiet and serene park.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day, butーー
Dee: (......what am I doing here...?)
Yes, it's a lovely day to take your kid to a park butーー
How did things end up this way?
[You went too far last time saving that girl. You won't be able to use your SPARK like you used to. If you do... well, you'll have to retire. There just won't be any fragments you can access.]
That was several months ago (within a different fragment's timeline). My Boss's words echoed in the back chambers of my mind.
I knew that I was taking a risk saving Amy, but I never imagined that things would have gotten that bad.
Wandering is what I did. It was something I had to do.
And up until now, I wandered alone. Sure, I had a companion for a guide, but he doesn't count.
Since I started wandering through fragments, I've lived a carefree life. Nobody but myself to look after.
If you're envious, the novelty of solitude wears off after a few days, so to be perfectly honest, a solitary life isn't the most exciting, but for work, it's the most efficient.
Back before I left the [PRESENT], I was briefly married, but I pushed back and locked those memories away as quickly as it appeared.
Amy: "WHEEEEE!! Look, Dee!"
The chains creaked as she swung higher.
I waved at her from a park bench.
This was the first detour I ever took during a wandering. Normally, I would survey the area and immediately start looking for the target. That was the standard routine and procedure. Because of my companion, I didn't wander through any empty fragments. There was rarely more than one person inside, but there was always somebody I was supposed to see.
Anxious to keep moving on, I tapped my feet and fidgeted in my seat. It's not like I'm hard pressed with a deadline, but I had things I wanted to get done. On top of that, wandering was a dangerous job. Not everyone we meet here are friendly. The more efficient I can be, the better chance I have of reaching my goal.
That didn't stop Amy from going to the playground though.
Before I could say anything, she squealed with joy and giggled as she ran towards the swings.
Now, I watched as Amy began going dangerously close to vertical on the swing.
Dee: "HーHey, let's be careー"
I never got to finish my sentence.
Amy hovered over the swing just briefly before she came racing down the other side. Next, she began swinging giant windmills, and all hell broke loose.
Normally, the chain of the swing should have gotten tangled on the top bar, but with every swing, it mysteriously stretched and straightened itself out. That was definitely Amy's doing.
The bars supporting the swing curved and warped from the increasing velocity and pressure, but somehow they held together. Another one of Amy's doing.
It is much easier influencing something you are in direct, physical contact, and having a specific goal in mind pushes those intentions - your [WILL] basically - to forcing an outcome.
No matter what those goals are, we are supposed to be limited by the laws of nature. Sometimes we get lucky and do things that should have been impossible in hindsight. For Amy, however, sneaking past those rules during her escapades was her norm. Watching her bend the rules was like watching a child stretch putty to its utter limits.
The [PAST] worlds where the fragments reside are much more brittle than the [PRESENT].
I hurriedly stood up to intervene, but things were already getting out of hand.
The swing began lurching dangerously with the windmilling seat, and the creak of the metal chains went from a quiet, oscillating, rhythmic squeak to a constant, ear-ringing banshee scream.
My vision blurred as the noise erupted and slammed my ear drums.
My scream was drowned out by the screech of the metal, as I saw Amy launch herself into the air.
Letting go of the swing, as if to say, "It is finished," the swing gave out and turned to ashes. Amy was now high above in the air and became a speck in the sky.
Before I knew what was happening, an invisible tsunami of wind slammed into me and flattened the playground and the trees.
As I laid flat on my back with the wind knocked out of me, I watched a meteor (Amy) descend out of the sky and crash onto the ground.
The way the earth lurched at the impact made it look like a giant tub of jelly - it bounced up, caved inwards, and finally flattened itself out as dust rose several stories high and covered the flat terrain with ashes.
All that remained of me was a caked, humanoid dirt figure laying spread eagle on the ground next to a giant crater - surprisingly, still alive.
When I was little, I had my fair share of competing with my friends on how far we could jump off the swing, butー
I puffed out a small white cloud as I wheezed and exhaled dryly.
Amy jumped out of the crater and planted her feet next to me like a gymnast's dismount.
There was only pure joy radiating from her face.
Another puff of cloud escaped from my lips.
I should be surprised, but I'm not.
This was what I was afraid of.
After recovering infant Amy, we spent a few days with my Boss and her crew as we tried to figure things out.
It wasn't unusual to recover a soul from a fragment - just rare. You see, me and my friends were exceptionally terrible at this job, but like family, my boss didn't have the luxury of choice. In short, we were all that she had to work with.
We helped a handful of souls, and our job was to help them move beyond the fragments of the [PAST]. Amy, however, felt otherwise, so the majority of time was spent trying to convince her to go back with my Boss' team.
Instead, Amy clung and crawled around my body avoiding the hands trying to catch her.
That was day 1 and just the beginning.
Amy: "Dee! Did you see that?! DID YOU SEE THAT?!"
Her voice trembled as her excitement boiled over, and she hopped up and down anxious to know whether I saw everything from beginning to end.
Dee: "That was...quite amazing."
I reviewed the newly constructed desolate wasteland with a nervous smile. Maybe this was why parents complimented their children's drawings even if it was indecipherable crayon scribbles. Except, this is what happened when my child was in a good mood.
[She's special Dee. Until I'm able to get more information, just KEEP. HER. SAFE.]
In another flashback, my Boss paced around the room nervously, but paused quite emphatically to make that point.
Amy: "Right?! That was awesome!!"
Amy turned around to mime the swing, jump, and landing with exaggerated arms and accompanied it with sputtering sound effects. The re-enactment was so much cuter than the actual series of events...
Dee: (If the target was anywhere near a 10 mile radius......)
....it would have been one very rude awakening - apocalyptic, even.
I'm working with my Boss to recover souls, but most souls manifesting inside fragments don't want to be bothered - especially not like this.
They like their privacy, and the last thing they want are uninvited guests.
That's why the job of a Wanderer is mostly a thankless, fruitless endeavor. Some would even say meaningless looking at my track record. Others (like a particular Boss' subordinate) would say pointless, reckless, stupid, and dangerous because Wanderers can be lost and one loss would place this entire operation into question.
Amy: "So what should we do next?!"
I surveyed the destruction and scratched my head.
Dee: "Well, we are here on a job."
Amy: "Aww!! But I only got to ride the swing once!!"
Yep, and I wasn't sure how much more this fragment could take.
Dee: "Amy, look."
Amy immediately turned her face away as she recognized my "adult" voice. It was the voice used to deliver news she didn't want to hear. She put her hands in her pocket and dug the toe of her shoe into the sandy ground.
Dee: "You came with me because you said you would help me with my work."
She looked up guiltily to match my gaze for a split second before looking away, and continued to kick the dirt.
Dee: "So we're not here to play. We're here on a job."
Amy: "...I know."
More scuffs into the ground.
Dee: "Then c'mon. We can play 'I Spy...' while we walk there."
Her face brightened at the suggestion of a game.
It's probably the least destructive game next to the quiet game, and even that's not a guarantee with her. Being placed in a pure vacuum of silence can do a number to one's sanity. I shut away those memories as well.
As we both casually began walking away from the crater, Amy cupped her hand over her eyes to see if there was something besides the desert brown landscape.
Amy: "Ooh! Ooh! I see a...house!"
Dee: "A what?"
Where? I looked, but all I saw was a never ending desert wasteland.
Amy: "There! That way!"
Amy pointed in a direction, but I could see no house.
Dee: "Amy...how far away... is this house?"
Amy: "It's a little far, but we can run there!"
Dee: "...uh huh...oh, wait!"
My instincts kicked in as I predicted her next words and lunged to grab her shoulder.
Amy: "Race you there!"
With both hands on her shoulders, my body was lifted off the ground as Amy dashed forwards towards the house she saw.
My vision blurred and stretched as she ran with an adult clinging to her in a matter of a few dozen seconds.
My scream was lost in the wind.
As she put on the breaks, we skidded a 100 yards or so as I unceremoniously flew over her head, thudded, skidded, and rolled to a halt - surprisingly, still alive.
I think I'm alive because I was holding onto her. Otherwise, that acceleration should have killed me.
Amy: "Wow, Dee! I didn't think you would beat me!"
The world spun as I was still woozy from the landing. There was a concussion or two at the end too. I barely managed to stand up but could not reply to her.
As I shook my head to clear my vision, I saw the house Amy mentioned.
It was in bad shape, but what caught my eye was the guy sitting on the roof.
Dee: "Oh, sh*t this isn't good..."
It was a [DEVOURER] - and it was...feeding.