Oh, hello. I guess you expected me here, together again. How do you feel? Ah, never mind... I can sense your tensed muscles and sudden movements, although you're trying to hide it. We know what that means, right? We've learned it once. You don't like me. You don't want me here. But I have all the rights to be here, and so do you. Where are we this time, anyway? Same place as always?
My eyes don't help much: it's pitch black. I can only hear my heart beats, so loud that I'm afraid they'll hear me - but I can't control it, it's because of this place. The place I hate the most, with the sweet vanilla smell... I allow myself a minute to think - I know what I have to do, I've done it so many times, but the goosebumps tell me this is going to be different. What if I fail? What if everyone who believes in me is wrong?... Taking a deep breath, I decide not to think about failure. Not today. Instead I focus on what I know about the place - the plan of the building. Save her and get out. I don't want to be here, but there's little choice in what I do... Shivers across my body.
We could leave now, you know.
I suddenly feel weak. A sharp pain in my head, a door cracking open, hitting my temple, and everything starts rolling around me, even darker than before.
Hey! I'm still here. You need to give up, let everyone down, just stay alive. Why do you care about her anyway? She's a nobody, just like you... Who cares if she doesn't make it out? No one will blame you for it, right? Although it will be your fault, of course. It's your mission. How many have we failed so far? Ah, none. Well, everything has a start, and this could be it. Where are we now, anyway? Same place?
I'm lying on something hard and cold, almost comfortable though... I feel so tired that I could just fall asleep. But I can't afford to. I need to finish my mission. I need to save her, or die trying. There's no in-between. Although... I could run away. Blow up the whole building and blame them for it. I could pretend the whole mission was already compromised. I can still get my medal nonetheless. Everything is dark around me, my head hurts, and my chest whenever I breath in. Vanilla... I know this perfume. It's hers. I've always loved it, like I've always loved her. She needs to be saved, but then who's saving me?... I carefully look along the corridor outside, but no one's there. I can't fail this one. So I step out of the room, but somehow it's only void there, and I fall, and fail, and fail...
Come on. This is obviously not the end. I'm still here, you're still here, let's do this one more time. Let's fail it one more time, because nothing ever goes as planned. Are you there yet?
Her sweet perfume makes me smile, and I get up, shaking. She's there looking at me, and I tell her that she's safe, I'm here now, and we'll get out, and get married, and everything will be fine... But she walks away. I try to reach her, I call her name, I swear I'm the good guy, she knows me, I love her, I will get her out of here... 'You failed.' And I cry as she runs away, screaming, and screaming, and...
No, you are the one screaming. Because you failed.
Ah, I am the one screaming... Because I failed.
And you keep screaming, because you'll never see her again...
And you're screaming because of me.
"You're safe, stay calm!"
But you can't escape me.
"You're having those nightmares again!..."
You know you can't. I'm part of you.
"You saved me, it ended a while ago..."
It will never end...
"Everything went as planned, remember?"
There are thousands different ways it could have failed...
There's no way out of this, no one saves you from your own anxiety... Until next time.
Written on: 30 March 2016
Note: This story was submitted for a international competition on the theme "No Way Out".