Alice in the Massacre - Chapter 20
There was a roar. An explosion of flame.
Alice lunged at the natural gas fuel tank, which flared into a torrential inferno after a beat. As the flames billowed through the surroundings, an alarm resounded across the shelter. The permanent lights on the ceiling switched to red and began to flash. The people started screaming and fleeing.
Raffi shouted at Philrain as she dashed towards the blazing gas facility.
“No! Don’t approach Alice!”
Philrain simply dismissed his words, dashing towards the flames on slender legs with a long needle in her hand. At the sight of this, Raffi clicked his tongue and hurried after her.
The gas may or may not have caught on fire, but the flames were so intense that it was unclear what was going on. There was a blast of hot air. A fraction of a second later, a spray of water laced with extinguishing agent shot out from the ceiling through the sprinklers. The heat subsided slightly, but the momentum of the flames did not diminish.
Philrain exclaimed, attempting to leap into the flames… but Raffi bit the hem of her skirt to stop her.
“You’ll die! Get back!”
“But the… Angel…!”
“You can’t destroy the Bandersnatch over something like this!”
Then they both recognized Humpty’s voice from behind them and turned around in a panic. Humpty was right behind Philrain… within touching distance of his hand. He was slightly shorter than her, with a creepy Noh-like face turned upwards and a grin on his face.
Instantaneously, Philrain’s face twisted with hatred. With her pupils dilated and eyes as if she were going crazy, she swung the long needle in her hand and sent it hurtling towards Humpty. It was a move that didn’t involve a single ounce of hesitation.
However, the moment she thought he was going to be pierced… Humpty’s egg-shaped body disappeared. Ignoring Philrain, who stared dumbfounded at the needle that cut through the air, Humpty crouched down, as if to overshadow the stiffening Raffi.
“You’re not a… cat. You don’t smell like a… living thing or even a Nightmare.”
Narrowing his eyes, he reached out and grasped Raffi by the neck and lifted him up. The small cat flailed around, seemingly unable to catch his breath.
He studied Raffi wonderingly and directed his hand at Philrain, who was about to pounce on him.
“Oops…” With a snap, Humpty flicked a finger at her. “You’re in my way, bambina.”
A moment later, a tremendous whirlwind of air swept over Philrain’s body. Like a bullet, the wall of air sent the little girl flying through the air for several meters, and then she was slammed into the ground, tumbling around as if she had failed to brace herself.
“Now… what the hell is this?”
Looking around at Raffi skeptically, Humpty pressed his fingers against the cat’s head.
“Let’s see if I can figure it out if I open your head…” He delivered the frightening line in a smooth manner.
Then Raffi uttered a faint, stifled voice because of the grip on his throat. “You can open my head all you want, but I suggest you make it a priority to break away from here for now, Humpty Dumpty.”
Perhaps finding it unexpected that he was being spoken to, Humpty opened his eyes and looked at the cat.
“Oh… you know my name?”
“I’m afraid I’m all ears when it comes to information…”
“I wonder what I should do. However, there is no reason to run away. This time Alice too was apparently dead in the explosion.”
“I’m planning to bring it back when she’s roasted, but I’m curious about you…”
“I’m not going to advise you twice. You guys have no idea the true horror of the Bandersnatch…”
At the exact moment Raffi mentioned this, Humpty threw Raffi out of the way and jumped back. A sound of rumbling air was generated where he had been standing until now, and “something” was impaled into the ground. Rather than stopping with a thrust, it went forward with a deep cut, as if it had carved the ground with a sharp blade, and exploded with the sound of blasting air, shattering the stalls in a straight line. Fragments of the rattling, collapsing shelter fell from the ceiling.
“Outside air infiltration. Outside air intrusion. Contamination levels are rising. Citizens are urged to evacuate to the basement immediately.”
The voice of an urgent announcement reverberated through the shelter, accompanied by the sound of sirens. Clawing at the ground, Philrain managed to rise to her feet, but her eyes widened as she glanced ahead.
From the flames, Alice, her hair upside down in a bizarre way, slowly walked out as if she were unharmed. A rainbow-colored distortion of some sort clung to her surroundings.
Her eyes were hollow. Nothing was shifting in them. Not even light.
Looking around at the red bottomless “hole,” Alice shook her head waveringly. Humpty gritted his teeth and backed away.
“Indeed… This doesn’t strike to me as the time to be dealing with her.”
He kicked the ground and sprang up into the air. He then levitated effortlessly into the air.
“I shall leave you today, Alice. I’ll be back to see you sooner or later. Until then, please don’t let the other guys kill you.”
Humpty’s body disappeared like a mirage as he stated that.
“He escaped…?” Philrain muttered quietly. And then she hurriedly shouted to Alice. “Angel! Please be at ease! The enemy is gone!”
“No use…! If she doesn’t kill everyone around here, including me and… you, the Bandersnatch will never cease its rage…”
In Philrain’s azure eyes, she could see Alice slowly widening her mouth…
Then a sharp male voice echoed. The hole in the void slowly shifted towards him. Jack, on crutches and limping frantically, was approaching the fire.
“Everything is fine now, Alice. Let’s head back to the train. I’m sorry I was delayed in coming to get you!” Jack reached out to Alice, who had halted her movements, and slowly embraced her as though he were draping her over his body, which was emitting white smoke.
“It’s okay. It’s okay… I’m here, there’s nothing to be afraid of anymore. Calm down…”
Gradually, the rainbow-colored flickering returned to Alice’s body. Then the girl slowly closed her eyes and weakened. She seemed to have passed out. Jack stroked Alice’s head and raised his voice to Philrain, who was up on her feet.
“Go and get help! I can’t carry this girl by myself!”
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