Dustin awoke to someone calling his name as he shot up in bed, almost hitting his head on the top bunk. He felt hot, like he was in the sweltering heat, but found himself under a light navy sheet in an air-conditioned room.
Dustin pushed the sheet off his body and looked down, not spotting any sweat. He remembered the vivid dream he saw last night, and the woman crying above him.
When he sat up on the edge of the bed, he noticed some moisture touching his chest, four droplets soaking his shirt. The woman's face from his dream flashed through his head, accompanied by a dull drumming pain. He dabbed his finger into one droplet and brought it up to his mouth.
He licked the droplet, his eyes widening. Salty, more than sweat, more akin to tears. A minute of silence passed as Dustin stared at his finger, a flood of memories he never lived filling his head like a train, the dull pain sharpening to a pin-point.
A voice called from downstairs, pulling him out of the frozen state. The pain in his head dissipated, clearing some fuzziness away. His eyes wandered to the door as he whispered, "Display."
Nothing appeared, and the pain began anew, bringing back more memories. Older memories.
The pain returned and grew at an alarming rate as his mother called for him again, "You're going to be late!"
Dustin looked at the door with wide eyes, sensing something wet drip down his cheek. He lifted his finger up to it, wiping a tear away, her voice…
Dustin hadn't seen her in years, not since she died, torn apart by a crazed monster.
He shook his head, surprised at the tears that sprung forth. He saw his mother yesterday but failed to stop the flood of emotions.
What the hell is wrong with me?
After refusing to answer her again she burst through the door, one hand on a flip-flop and the other holding a cup of water.
She had meant to splash it on him and slap him awake but stopped at the door, surprised that he was not only awake but crying. He looked up at her with a pained expression and couldn't stop himself from running over to hug her, spilling some water.
"Is everything ok?" Jean asked, ignoring the water that had splashed onto her work pants. She dropped the footwear in her other hand on the ground and pat Dustin on the back.
He mumbled something about missing her as she calmed him down, waiting until he stopped crying.
"S-sorry. I don't know…"
Jean sighed and pulled away, looking at his face. He didn't seem injured or anything, but looked pained, like he was being attacked by an indescribable sadness. She used her thumb to wipe away the tears under his eyes and plucked a tissue from the nearby box.
"You sure you want to go in today? You can stay home, you haven't missed any classes yet."
Dustin shook his head and accepted the tissue, blowing his nose whilst trying to reign in the mixed emotions.
"No, it's ok. I'll go in." He said, turning to find clothes.
"You sure you're ok? Anything you want to talk about?"
Dustin looked held up his shirts one at a time and tried to identify them, first annoyed that it wasn't working, then dropping them like something infected them, his mind in constant turmoil.
He mumbled that he would be fine back to his mother and chose a random clean shirt, wondering why he felt disappointment at the lack of defence it offered.
He tried to convince himself that he was thinking of a game he had played or one coming out he had forgotten about, but couldn't help the emotions that overtook him whenever something else came up.
Dustin had been a top student during university, missing not a single class, and receiving top marks, earning him an expensive scholarship that his mother had been very proud of.
The sounds of a car turning on as he left his room gave him nostalgia like it had been decades since he had last seen or heard a car.
As his mother left for work, he peered out the window overlooking the driveway, watching as she pulled away in a little Audi. Whilst watching his mother leave, he scanned the surroundings, looking at the street to see what was approaching.
Memories filled his head with the locations they could attack in him, only stressing him out even further.
He forced himself into the bathroom and splashed his face, looking up in the mirror. He felt old but looked young. One of his hands ran over his clean-shaven face, feeling like he was missing a beard.
As a second-year university student studying Chemical Engineering, he was only twenty years old but seen as a genius by his parents, teachers, and friends. He felt regret at having never finished the course…
At never finishing the course…
Why wasn't he going to finish the course?
He splashed more water on his face, but couldn't shake the turmoil within his head. Hoping that something to eat would fix the problem he dashed down the stairs and threw together a bowl of cereal, savouring each spoonful. He lived on hardtack for so long he forgot about other foods.
Dustin almost tasted the dry biscuits in his mouth and tried to shove more cereal in to counteract it.
His senses were going haywire from the information overload. In the back of his head, he knew something was coming. He remembered the vivid images of fighting. Losing.
He was twenty years old, yet felt his time was approaching.
Dustin packed his things together and got in the car. He realised upon entry he had forgotten which side was the brake and which was to speed up. Once he worked that out, he set off towards the university, a short fifteen-minute drive.
At least, it should have been. He couldn't help but check every blind spot, afraid something would pop out and get him. He ended up going 10 below the speed limit, jumping at the angry beeps other drivers gave him.
The university campus was busy as students arrived for morning classes, sending Dustin into a panic as he tried to keep track of everything moving around him, watching for anyone who looked out of place.
He almost crashed into a pole as he did not turn right, blushing as onlookers laughed, one of them yelling, asking him if he knew how to drive.
Dustin parked the car in the furthest spot from his class, where few other cars bothered to go. He took the paths least travelled towards the class, and sat down at the back so he could see everyone, with nobody behind him.
When the lecturer came in, she gave him a look, surprised to find him at the back, his spot empty where his usual seat was.
He ended up distracted all class, unable to focus on the board. When the teacher called his name, asking for the answer to an equation, he gave it without thinking.
It wasn't out of place for students to do so, but Dustin had listed off the numbers like someone wrote it in front of him, rather than calculating it himself. This repeated several times, even drawing some attention from other students as he continued to give his answer before she could even finish asking him.
Mathematics was straightforward, find the formula, and apply it. Dustin knew the formula, but each time he answered, he wasn't calculating it himself. He somehow remembered what the answer was like he had already done the question before.
It wasn't impossible he had done them before, but very unlikely, as it occurred several times throughout the class, on questions the lecturer herself had made up. Whilst his speed impressed the class, his mind was only growing more doubtful of what was real and what was imaginary.
Deja Vu was a phenomenon where the mind tricks itself into thinking something happened already, a false memory. Dustin experienced it before but knew it was nothing like this. He had also never heard of a case that extended past a single event and encapsulated the rest of one’s life.
The classes after his tutorial were lectures, and once again he sat at back, keeping everyone else in front of him.
"Dustin, what are you doing back here?"
Some called out to him as they stood in the aisle, a laptop in his arm. They slid through the seats to sit next to him and made a show of squinting to see the lecturer, teasing Dustin for having sit so far back.
Dustin tried to contain his emotions at reuniting with his friend who had died long ago, and the anger at himself for thinking such a thing was real.
His friend's name was Ben, another student at the university. He had died not from the monsters that came from the dungeons, but after he had bought something expensive from the Dos store, and other survivors murdered him for it.
Dustin pretended like he was focusing on setting up to take notes, avoiding looking at Ben. The lecture started, saving Dustin from hiding his face, and he wrote information from his memories into a notebook.
He circled important parts and added question marks to others. There was one name he went over multiple times, making it bold. He also circled it and tapped his pen on the page.
Ben had snuck a look at his notes and nudged Dustin in the ribs, "And who would this Cynthia be, hm?"
Dustin felt a variety of emotions, going from happiness to love, and ending on sadness. Ben sat back as if he had stepped on a landmine, hazarding a guess what might have tipped Dustin off.
Dustin didn't bother to rectify the mistake and continued his writing, drawing occasional doodles of the monsters he had vivid memories of fighting.
The lecture went by with Dustin not having heard a single word the lecturer said, but he could remember the information he should have learned from it.
Ben invited him to grab some lunch, but Dustin declined, feeling like he needed to pull himself together.
He ended up sitting in the car, filling out notebooks in a flurry with a spread of information. He searched web pages on his phone, trying to see if there was some kind of game that related to any of it.
Dustin asked one of his gamer friends some vague questions about the stuff, including the name Torian.
"Do you mean Tauren?"
Dustin put his phone down and bit his lip, looking out at the green scenery that bordered the edge of the university.
It was all too real, too many emotions attached to the memories and the overwhelming accuracy of what would happen that day that Dustin couldn't help but feel it was the future.
He tried again to open the 'display' that littered his memories, but again, nothing popped up. Part of him knew, from the memories, that it was best if it never popped up.
But the time before it did was short, less than a year. He would go insane if he did nothing, waiting until the inevitable. He couldn't just quit university. No one would understand if he rambled on about doomsday. They’d throw him in hospital, which would make things even worse.
To help settle himself a little, he made a list of things to do before the end of the year on his phone, making sure that each was achievable, and would still allow him to act like everything was normal. If by the end of the year, his memories were a farce, then he would go get therapy, and continue his life as normal.
He sat in his car for two hours, missing his other lecture. Ben, who had attended the same lectures, was messaging him every ten minutes. He had never missed a single class before.
Dustin messaged him back, saying he wasn't feeling well and would miss two days. Ben asked if it involved Cynthia.
Dustin kept looking at the text as he prepared to drive back home, hovering over the send button.
His mother had asked him again if he was feeling well when he returned home, and he gave the same excuse as he had to Ben.
Fooling around before dinner, Dustin booted up his computer and transferred some of his notes from the notebooks, with additional information, into documents, sorting them in folders.
Without a display, Dustin felt naked, missing a part of himself that offered reassurance. To off put the feeling, he wrote a 'status' screen into a spreadsheet and filled it out from what he remembered, making it like something out of a game.
Intelligence - 14
Strength - 4
Agility - 4
Wisdom - 7
Charisma - 3
Constitution - 3
Dustin was thin, making his strength low. He also had bad flexibility, and low endurance, making his agility poor. His intelligence would be far above average, which was why teams groomed him into support and healer in the past.
His wisdom was acceptable, as much as any human could be. If he considered the ability to predict the 'future' then it was perhaps higher.
Charisma was low as Dustin abhorred public speaking, and crowds, making a small group of friends and sticking to them. His memories painted him as some kind of leader, which felt natural, and terrifying.
Dustin knew he couldn't take a hit for shit, and he was likely to blow over in a strong wind, giving him a weak constitution.
To remedy these before the coming of the real status, were having a head start would make things easier, he turned his attention to the list he had made earlier.
To Do List:
- Hit the gym.
- Study Historical Warfare, Geography, Botany.
- Find a source of income.
- Purchase a weapon
- Purchase armour
- Complete a monster compendium
- Prevent myself from going insane
- Find Cynthia.