After the events of Reload 7, Goku's mind begins playing tricks on him...
"If you lost your life, would you want us to bring you back?"
"Hmmm. . . No, it's okay. I think I'd be okay."
Almost immediately after the words exited his mouth, Goku's world came crashing down. He didn't really feel much of anything as his body was assaulted by bullets. Everything went by him quickly, and he faded into darkness. . .
His eyes flew open. Glancing around, Goku was at an utter loss. Did his eyes deceive him? The cave walls practically surrounded him, leaving only a cage-like opening before him.
He couldn't possibly back in this place. No. Sanzo had rescued him years ago. So, what then? It occurred to him that he was dreaming. Of course! It certainly wasn't the first time.
Still, the claws of fear gripped at him. This dream felt all too real. He was cold and lonely in this place, with the outside world just out of his grasp. The sun and outside life evaded him. Merely a handful of birds would pass by here. Flying, too far away.
Time elapsed. Too much, it seemed. And this lonely existence began to feel real. So real, in fact, that Goku began questioning everything in his mind.
Perhaps, if this feeling was anything to go by, he really was still stuck here. What if that were the case? That would mean Sanzo had never come for him. That he, Hakkai, and Gojyo never even existed.
The thought terrified the heretic, more-so than anything ever had. Through his tears, he called out.
'Sanzo! Someone! Please...'
Worry and fear ran through him like the blood ran through his veins. It couldn't possibly be true, could it? No. He just had to be sleeping now. All of this was a terrible nightmare.
He closed his eyes. . .
. . .
The visions of a horrible battle flew before his closed eyes. And he saw. . . Sanzo, staring at him as he fell.
/I think. . . I heard the sound of somethin' breakin'./
The thought went through him as he awoke. What had happened, he wasn't too certain. Images and thoughts from two separate dreams - or memories? - flashed quickly in his mind.
He immediately checked himself to see if he'd really been injured. As he attempted to stand, he collapsed spectacularly upon the floor. A door flew open, revealing Hakkai's relieved face.
Over the next few minutes, he learned of Sanzo abandoning them. He learned of him going off with Hazel. He couldn't really believe it. Even so, he knew there was a reason Sanzo took off. He knew Sanzo knew who'd attacked him, and was going to hunt whoever it was down. . .
. . .
The three of them sat in Jeep now. In the silence, Goku was able to think.
His initial thoughts were of Sanzo. He'd wondered how the priest was doing now without them, and hoped that he was alright. But. . .
The memories of his prison filled his mind once again. Why on Earth would he be thinking about that now?
Goku'd had a very similar dream when Sanzo had almost died at the hands of Rikudo early on in their journey. He had another one in the desert, after the weird scorpion woman poisoned Sanzo. The same thoughts flooded his mind each time. /What if I really were still stuck there?/ and /Maybe all of this is a dream. . ./
With each incident, he grew more and more uncertain with his current existence. It certainly was possible that he'd lost his mind in the cave. But, he couldn't possibly have made this life up. No way. Besides, if it were up to him, none of his friends' lives would have been so depressing. He hated all of that. They suffered too much.
Lost in thought, he barely registered Gojyo's questions. He responded distractedly with a "...No."
It was then that Gojyo punched him, half-heartedly, in the face.
"Anyway. We'd better get some food and clothes before we do anything else."
/. . .I'm so stupid. I'm makin' 'em worry./
Of course, he knew they thought he was only upset about Sanzo, but that wasn't the entirety of it at all. And he came to a realization.
No. Of course this world was real. How could he possibly think it wasn't? Gojyo and Hakkai were totally real. It was obvious right now, with them by him, worried. And. . . Sanzo was real, too. No way he wasn't. And they were gonna find him soon.
Definitely. . .
. . .
A small, yellow bird flew into the opening of a cave it had spotted. Something shining caught its eye, and so it went to investigate. It landed inside and watched, with curiosity, the sight before it.
A young boy lay there, unconscious. His eyes moved rapidly beneath his eyelids, fingers twitching periodically. His face was scrunched up, troubled in sleep.
After a moment, a soft smile crossed his face. He seemed calm, peaceful, and, for now, put at ease. . .
. . . . . . . . .
If you need to leave the world you live in,
Lay your head down and stay a while.
Though you may not remember dreaming,
Something waits for you to breathe again. - Evanescence: "Imaginary (Origin)"