'Of the Rising Sun'
A single beam of light entered Bray’s vision, slowly stretching across the landscape before him. He twisted his head to follow the glowing line as it grew larger and proceeded to fill the dark world around him, until he was consumed by the blinding white.
Bray shut his eyes, wincing in pain.
A few colored orbs of light began to appear farther off in the distance. They crept into his view one after another, the smaller ones growing larger and then immediately being replaced by another group of forming orbs. All of the twirling spheres transitioned through and beyond the limited color spectrum that Bray’s mind could grasp onto. Bray watched helplessly as one of the orbs sped towards his face at a terrifying velocity. He flinched and turned his head away moments before the orb smashed into his eyes, sending his mind spiraling back into the black nothingness that he had grown so accustomed to.
As Bray had resigned himself to the complete isolation that went hand in hand with that darkness, he heard a soft voice call out.
“We're in,” the woman said, calling out to someone else. “Braiden, can you hear me?” she asked. “This is Dr. Willow. We are going to attempt the Memory Recall procedure now. Please respond to ensure that you are receiving us.”
When Bray did not immediately answer, Dr. Willow spoke again, this time in a soothing, gentler tone.
“I know you're frightened right now, but we're only trying to help you, Braiden.”
After another moment of silence, Bray finally spoke up.
“Yes, I can hear you,” he said begrudgingly.
“Great, please relax and let the SIRT do what it was designed to do.” With that the world around Bray morphed swiftly yet again. Bracing himself, and with no idea what to expect next, Bray gritted his teeth.
This time an all-white room materialized around him. Bray stood in the corner of the room as he watched a blonde haired woman desperately pleading with Dr. Secora.
“Please, please don't do this!” she begged. Her dark eyes welled up with tears that shimmered in the bright light. Reaching her breaking point, the woman collapsed to her knees, continuing to plead with Dr. Secora as she clutched onto his long white lab coat. “This is your son!” she exclaimed, her voice breaking with emotion.
Dr. Secora, however, remained stone-faced and emotionless. When he placed a hand on the kneeling woman’s shoulder, she looked up at him with a glimmer of hope in her eyes, as though he might be coming around.
Instead, Dr. Secora shoved the woman hard, causing her to tumble backwards towards the floor. As she struggled to regain her balance, Dr. Secora dashed off to Bray's corner of the room.
Dr. Secora reached down and violently grabbed Bray’s weak arm as a loud clunking noise filled the bright white room.
The expression in Dr. Secora's eyes was nothing short of terrifying. Bray studied his father's face as Dr. Secora opened his mouth to speak. Suddenly, Dr. Secora collapsed to his knees, his eyes rolled back slightly in his head before his large body hit the white marble floor below Bray's feet with a loud thud.
Almost instantly, the blonde woman was standing over Bray, her eyes as dark and stormy as before, but this time laced with a newfound determination. Her breathing was labored and a bit of spittle flew from her lips as she spoke urgently to Bray.
“Come now Braiden. We have to get out of here!” she shouted over the sound of a crying child somewhere in a second room, reaching out for his hand. Without hesitating, Bray followed the woman out through a sliding white door, not knowing exactly what to think but feeling the instinct to trust her at that moment.
As soon as the woman and Bray stepped foot outside of the bright white room, the entire materialized world shifted back to black. Bray heard a voice fill the space around him, as if resonating from within his own head. It wasn't Dr. Willow as he had expected however, Bray recognized the voice immediately as belonging to his sister Brielle.
“No, no. Further ahead than this,” Brielle scolded. “Try moving the dial further.”
“Yes, Brielle,” Dr. Willow respectfully answered.
In a flash, Bray’s world transitioned again. He was beginning to feel incredibly dizzy and sick from the constant abrupt changes to his environment. The images of the scenery around him bounced rapidly, like a sped up version of reality. Bray gasped to himself as he realized that he wasn't actually traveling across this newly materialized world on his own. The blonde woman from Bray's previous memory was now carrying his small, young body as she ran feverishly through a city alley way. An authoritative voice boomed out behind them, bouncing off the surrounding wooden buildings that were painted with a badly chipping blue paint.
The woman twisted her body and surveyed her options before running out of the alley way and onto the main streets which Bray recognized at once—they were inside of the Blear sector.
The authoritative voice yelled out again, “Under the order of Dr. Secora and in compliance with the Agency of Constance you are legally mandated to cease your movements!”
Out of options and desperate, the blonde woman began to yell out, clutching the younger version of Bray so tightly against her chest that he shook from the vibrations of her voice.
“Help, please help us! Anyone! Someone! You have to help my son––”
The word “son” echoed off the wooden buildings around them as she spun helplessly in a circle in the middle of the main road, followed immediately by a thunderous, deafening crack. The woman holding onto Bray screamed out and began to fall towards the ground, her dark eyes wincing in pain. Bray landed hard against the concrete, still clutched in his mother's shaking arms.
The two of them laid still on the ground for a moment before the woman began to try and stand again—only to shriek out in pain as she put a small amount of pressure on her freshly wounded leg. Tears started to form in her eyes as she tilted Bray’s face to meet her own.
“Braiden, I’m so sorry. I only wanted the best for you in this horrible world,” she said somberly, her voice filled with the deep anguish that only a mother who has lost her child could know.
Suddenly a man was near them, swiftly pulling Bray from the clutch of his mother's cradle. As Bray was carried away from his screaming mother, he was able to look over the man's shoulder back towards where she lay on the cold ground, a pool of blood forming beside her wounded leg.
Bray reached a hand out in vain towards her, as giant tears welled up in his eyes.
“I’ll come back for you Braiden!” She yelled out, both in efforts to reassure her son and herself.
Bray watched in horror from afar as two agents swarmed over to where his wounded mother lay. Despite this, she never took her eyes off Bray, who was getting farther away by the second. She stretched an arm out in Bray's direction, in a feeble attempt to reach him.
“Trust the ones around you!” She cried out to him moments before a painful wail escaped her lungs, followed immediately by the sound of nothing. Bray watched in shock as his mother's body disappeared from under the two agents. The agents rapidly stood and looked at the empty ground before them in confusion, exchanging a troubled look with each other as they scanned the area.
The running man carried Bray through a doorway tucked back in an alley before Bray’s entire vision returned to the black nothingness of the Dream Machine again. Still in shock, Bray tried to make sense of what had just occurred. It was as though he'd been given access to a memory in his life that had previously been restricted from him. As he tried in vain to picture his mother's face again, Brielle’s voice broke his concentration.
“Nothing, absolutely nothing! All this provides to us is that my father was right about my mother abandoning us. We need more. Run it further forward!” Brielle declared, her voice filled with vengeful determination.
Despite this, Bray found comfort in his newly unlocked memory, and held onto the vision of his mother's face and the comforting sensation of being held by her.
Though he had mere moments to prepare for the next abrupt change in his environment, Bray needed no time to adjust to his new reality. Brown dirt walls filled in around him and a single bulb hung high above his head, connected to multi colored wires running across the packed dirt ceiling and out the top of the room's metal doorway.
Without hesitation, Bray lifted his seated body from the worn out chair he sat in, and walked swiftly over to the cot across the room. He bent forward and reached out his arms, grabbing onto the beautiful girl who was fast asleep under the gray blanket.
“No! Further than this!” Bray heard Brielle’s voice sound from within his thoughts.
“I’m sorry, Brielle,” Dr. Willow chimed in, “The Memory Recall Protocol is indicating that this is as far forward as Braiden’s memories go.”
Knowing that this moment would flicker away at any second, Bray grabbed on tightly to Nora. Despite the urgency of the situation, Bray couldn't help but take a moment to gaze lovingly at the features of her sleeping face, pausing to studying Nora's eyes as they twitched with the movement of her dreams. As Bray admired the woman he loved, he felt himself solely fueled by the desire to be with her once more. He watched as she continued to sleep, her hair softly falling across her neck.
The sound of Nora's thin voice began to fill the room around him, despite the fact that her eyes remained closed. The sound was so soft that Bray wasn't sure if he imagined it.
“Come find me,” Nora whispered.
Bray shook Nora's body forcefully, pleading for her to come back to him inside the isolated dirt room. His breathing was sharp and erratic as he placed his face nearer to her.
Nora's eyes jerked open, sending Bray back with a start. Her lips parted and the rushing sound of air filled her lungs. She blinked rapidly, staring straight back into Bray's dark hopeful pupils.
“Please Bray, come find me.” Nora reached out a hand towards Bray's freshly tear soaked cheek.
As the world around him turned back to black, her words continued to hang in the air.
A white ring of light appeared in the distance above him, causing Bray to blink repeatedly in order to restore his vision. Bray turned his head to look around the large white room with the purple sliding doorway. His body was still strapped into the Dream Machine inside of the test labs of Obsidia.
As Bray’s hearing tuned into the sounds of the white room of his imprisonment, he heard Brielle's voice ring out. She was clearly agitated.
“This is all you have?!” Brielle screamed, breathless from the intensity of her emotions as she stood above Bray on the Dream Machine. “After all of this work, transporting you all this way back to Obsidia. All of this only for a small second of Eleanor telling you to go and find her!?”
Brielle slammed her fist down hard on Bray’s leg. Her teeth were barred and her breathing became erratic. She looked up across the room at Dr. Willow for a brief moment before returning her gaze to Bray.
With her nostrils flared, the next words out of Brielle’s mouth cut Bray deeper than anything he had heard before. With her eyes still locked onto his, Brielle spoke through gritted teeth. “Execute him,” she seethed.
Dr. Willow gasped in shock at Brielle’s words. In an effort to get a better look at what was going on around him, Bray struggled to lift his head up. The tightly fastened restraints around his throat barely allowed him to move an inch.
“No, you can't!” Bray yelled out, pleading with Brielle. “We are family, you can't kill me!”
Brielle lifted her hand and placed one finger against Bray’s flinching cheek, slowly stroking down towards his jaw line. A small sigh escaped her lungs before a hint of reflection appeared in her eyes.
“I loved you very much when we were children. You were everything to me,” she spoke softly as she tenderly stroked Bray’s cheek. A small tear formed in her left eye as she lingered above him. Brielle moved her face in closer until she was only inches from Bray’s.
Still hovering above his strapped down body, she continued to slowly run her finger across the soft side of his face. Her gaze dropped from Bray’s eyes as her finger moved lower and eventually landed on his neck, stopping just over his throat before moving to his collar bone.
Despite the gentleness of her actions, Bray tried desperately not to let his guard down. What Brielle said next shocked everyone. “Untie him from the SIRT,” Brielle ordered.
Dr. Willow stood from her seat at the consoles and walked briskly towards the Dream Machine. She began to rustle with the leather straps restraining Bray as Brielle took a few steps back towards the purple sliding door behind her. As the sound of the lab door slowly opening filled the room, Brielle turned and took one last glance into the room. She scanned over the screens on the white walls and the consoles positioned towards the back corner before returning to look at Bray on the Dream Machine.
“Take him to Sector One,” Brielle directed as she walked out of Test Lab 504. Bray yelled out as the sliding door was whisked shut, separating him from Brielle. A horrible thought began to form in his mind as he realized where he had just been condemned to, causing his stomach to fill with insurmountable dread.