187 Zoog

    Chapter 187: Zoog

    Silence, emptiness, chaos...

    Does a human have a mind first or a body first? And where does this nothingness exist? Does it even exist?

    In the blurriness, a consciousness was slowly awakening. It could hear the pitter-patter of something strange and some whispering. Light... washed away the darkness slightly. Was it the eyes... the eyes...

    The consciousness slowly gathered its memory, and some pain came along with it. Enormous pain originated from everywhere. It was spreading and festering. The consciousness was like a candle left in the storm. It was close to being extinguished... but at that moment, it appeared to hear a different voice. It did not come from anywhere close but somewhere among the chaos...

    'Dirty-minded Jun? Dirty-minded Jun? They say you're dead, and they're reading your will. Now is the time to correct their mistake,' the voice said.

    'Dirty-minded Jun? Dead? Will?' The consciousness percolated on the meaning of these words, and suddenly, more awakened within him. Dirty-minded Jun, Dirty-minded Jun... The consciousness was clearing up, and the chaos was fading away bringing the voice with it.

    'Dirty-minded Jun? Salty taste, Gu Jun...' As the name rose from nothingness, the consciousness was assaulted by waves of pain. Following the intense pain came the realization. 'Gu Jun, I am Gu Jun. But shouldn't I be dead already? And that was Wu Siyu's voice earlier... Shouldn't she have returned? Did she not return‽'

    As panic cut through his thought, other memories were returning. Images flashed before his eyes... 'No, Dirty-minded Yu returned to the real world, I am sure of that.'

    Gu Jun could only see darkness, complete darkness, but he could sense his presence.

    'So, where am I?'

    He appeared to be still inside a body, but he could not open his eyes. In fact, he could not move even a muscle in his body, but that did not take away from the pain ravaging his body. As his consciousness cleared up, more came to him. He turned to the system in his mind... However, it appeared like his mind had been exhausted as well. Just that movement of thought dazed him, and he felt too powerless to switch the system that he could have easily flickered on in the past.

    'I don't even have the mental power left to open the system?' He could remember rather hazily that his last mental corruption rate was forty-nine percent. 'That is so close to half. If I wake up, will the corruption go over half? So, what am I supposed to do now?'

    Gu Jun was reminded of the fact that he should have sliced his throat already. The piercing pain informed him clearly that he had severed the main artery, and he should be suffering from cranial hemorrhage and cardiac arrest too

    'So, am I a ghost?'

    But he did not feel like it. The strange whispering and pitter patter were getting louder, and they sounded strangely familiar.

    'Where have I heard them before?' Gu Jun tried to think, but he did not dare exhaust his mind too much. After a long time, the memory came back to him. It was when they were moving through the jungle on the island. He and Wu Siyu had heard this rustling before. It sounded like something stomping over the dead leaves, but when they stopped to observe their surroundings, they did not find anything. The pitter patter was strangely rhythmic, and it was accompanied by a soft voice that sounded like it was forced out of the throat. For some reason, Gu Jun felt like he was listening to a form of language. It felt like something was moving through the forest and chatting.

    'Dirty-minded Yu, are you there?' He called several times in his heart and tried to form a connection, but it was to no avail. She was not in the dream world. Gu Jun was sure that he remembered sensing Wu Siyu jumping through the dimensional crack. The voice that he heard earlier was probably a product of his subconscious.

    'Is it possible that I was saved by some kind of existence?' Gu Jun thought to himself. Honestly, he was afraid of death like everyone else. He had chosen suicide because that appeared to be the only solution to end the nightmare. But now that he was alive, did that mean the Nightmare Illness was too? And what kind of state was he in? Was everything alright at Eastern State?

    He thought for a while as he listened to the strange noises around him.

    'Locked-in Syndrome.' The name of a rare illness suddenly came to Gu Jun. Due to damage to the brain stem, patients would be trapped in the situation that he was currently in. Their consciousness was alive, and they could hear just fine. They had pain reflexes, but they could not speak or move. Because of this, the illness was also dubbed 'pseudo-coma'. The condition was one of the many medical conundrums that challenged the human medical community. There was still no effective treatment for it. But now Gu Jun remembered that some of the patients still could move their eyeballs and used this method to communicate with the outside world.

    'If my symptoms are reflective of Locked-In Syndrome, then perhaps I can try to move my eyeballs...'

    He had lost control of his limbs, body, neck, and head. He tried to channel all the energy inside his body around his eyes.

    'Move, just move...' He imagined gritting his teeth. 'Just a little bit!'

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    Suddenly, some kind of connection was reforged. A sense of familiar returned to him. It was the eyes. To be precise, it was the eyeballs, not including the eyelids. Gu Jun moved his eyeballs with difficulty. With that he heard the pattering stop before returning with urgency, it seemed to speak of surprise!

    'Yes, I am not dead. My hearing is working fine,' he told himself and tried his best to roll his eyeballs again. All of a sudden, he felt a yank on his eyelids, or perhaps he had imagined it. But the dim light pierced into his eyes, causing his eyeballs to prickle with pain. 'This is a fresh kind of pain. Looks like I am really still alive...'

    His consciousness was waking as his eyes regained focus. Everything came into focus for Gu Jun. Above him were the faces of several strange creatures looking down at him. Each of them was the size of a cat. They had brown fur, and their mouths tapered into a sharp snout. They had a pair of black beady eyes. They looked like giant rodents...

    'Giant rodents?' Gu Jun almost fainted from shock. 'The avenging lab rats? This is my personal hell?'


    However, as Gu Jun looked closer, he could see the forest on the island in the background. The withered trees with their gnarly branches. Then his eyelids were slammed back like curtains, and he fell back into darkness. The rhythmic pattering began again, but this time, he could understand the meaning. In the dream world, as long as the speaker was willing, the listener and speaker could communicate despite the difference in language. For now, he could hear at least five different voices whispering among themselves.

    "The man has awakened, and he is listening in on us."

    "Of course, he is. Our ways always work."

    "Then, should we eat him? We'll skin him and then crawl inside him to feast on his delicious internal organs."

    "No, he has ingested the house. We won't be able to digest him."

    "Nothing can't be solved with some good spices."

    "I told you no already!"

    "Then what should we do with him? Toss him into the sea?"

    "No, he is very valuable. He shall be a very good offering..."

    "Oh, yes, yes, yes, offering! At least this one man can replace one hundred hens, one hundred quails, and one hundred fowls!"

    "One hundred‽ Have you lost your mind? Dumb Zoog, dumb Zoog!"

    "Then, then... fifty of each?"

    "Honestly Zoog! Sigh, dear friends and family, let me tell you, this man here is at least worth one thousand hens, one thousand quails, and one thousand fowls!"

    "One thousand‽" The rapid succession of tapping sounded like shock. "Then doesn't that mean that our Zoog tribe won't need to give any more offerings this year should we put him up as sacrifice?"

    "At least, did you not hear me say at least? It is quite possible we will be spared from the need to make the offering for next year as well."

    "Then we have to make him our offering. We must!" They cheered.

    Hearing them, Gu Jun tried his best to roll his eyes to attract the attention of these creatures called Zoog...

    But none of the Zoog responded to him. They continued to discuss joyously among themselves how many hens, quails, and fowls he would be worth.
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