By Zachary Smith
Text copyright © 2016 Zachary Smith
All Rights Reserved
To the day-dreamers with their head in the clouds, never let anything stop you on your path to greatness
Its hands tighten around my throat, pushing me against the bark of a tree. My assailant, a black silhouette of a person, laughing wildly the more I struggle to breathe. Is this it? The end, as they call it. I never saw it coming, but then who does. And how is this fair? I’m still young – a sixteen-year-old – but for some reason, I’ve been chosen to be one of those statistics that were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And why am I here, I don’t remember coming to a wooded area after dark, that just screams murder victim. Normally I’d be tucked away in my bedroom, sat behind the safety of my computer screen, surfing the internet or reading a comic book like a proper little geek should do.
The being shrouded in black laughs again, this time, heavier and infectious. I can feel it seeping into my body, reaching every inch as it corrupts my very soul. But I don’t fight it, no, instead I welcome it and find myself feeding on its unnatural darkness, wanting it to take over.
Who is this person that willingly allows such an evil to flow through his veins? He’s someone I’ve never met before, yet I hear him every day, I know his likes and dislikes, I even know what he’s thinking and pass him in every reflection. He’s me.
Looking to my shadow of a capture, I find myself smiling and although I can’t see it, I know they smile back. And as they release their grip on my throat, I hold my gaze with them, waiting, always waiting.
“SOON!” it roars.
Beep! Beep! Beep! It’s that awful sound that rings throughout my ears every morning. A siren of sorts desperately trying to pierce my subconscious mind in an attempt to pull me out of my slumber. I try to ignore it – like I do every morning – fight its incessant wailing, even hide under my duvet in a hope it’ll just fade away, but it never does. Beep! Beep! Beep! Instead, I’m sure it’s getting louder, taunting me, until I throw the covers from my warmed body to face the early morning chill. “Fine!” I groan, lifting my heavy head from the pillow and pushing the dark fluffy bed hair from my eyes.
Starring down the alarm clock, the culprit, I whack the top button, before edging myself to the end of the bed where I remain seated, acclimatising my body to the sudden change in heat. This is something I should be used to, waking unrefreshed with a head filled with fog, eyes pained by the bright light and body aching like it hasn’t had enough time to recharge. Even today I can’t honestly say I was cut from a deep sleep, no, on some level I was awake, maybe in that snooze state, tumbling from one of my dreams. For I’m one of these people with a sleep disorder – so says my doctor – night terrors specifically; put simply, bad dreams. It sounds funny when I hear myself say it, a sixteen-year-old boy suffering from bad dreams, but these aren’t just regular bad dreams, as I’d do anything to be able to say I have those type of dreams every now and again, they sound like a fairy-tale compared to what I go through. Mine are more on the terrifying level, my own personal mind prison I cannot escape, and at times, they blur into my waking life. Worst of all they happen most nights, if not every night, to the point I cannot be sure as to when I last slept throughout without being disturbed, or if I have ever. And that’s exactly what happen last night, I had one of my episodes, but I can’t mull over it, that would be pointless as there’s nothing I can do about it. ‘He’s just got an overactive imagination,’ the doctors would say. ‘He’ll grow out of it.’
Sixteen years old, and still waiting to grow out of it.
Completing my morning bathroom routine in a time quicker than normal, I return to my bedroom in a leap to avoid the dirty clothes I’d left at the base of my bed, open my curtains, and let the light stream in, exposing the mess I’d lived in over the weekend. For a stranger to see, they’d think me nothing more than a slob, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, as my bedroom is more to me than just a place I – try to – sleep, it’s my own personal sanctuary, a place in which I come to escape the clutter of the outside world. It’s minimalist, open and light, with a set place for everything. Centred between my wooden wardrobe and chest of drawers is my bed, opposite to that is my computer desk, with the only other addition being a makeshift bookshelf that houses old comic books, and dust covered DVDs and CDs I never use anymore. If it wasn’t for a nostalgic feeling I hold towards these old, irrelevant devices, they’d probably have ended up in a bin long ago, which would explain why I’m one of the last few people to own – and use – an alarm clock, instead of my smartphone. If only this practice could cross over onto my mind, allowing me to free myself from the daily grind of thinking a hundred thoughts per second, half of which don’t even feel like mine anymore, and it’s only gotten worse in the last few months, like someone has flipped a switch allowing for an unnatural corruption to infect my brain; accompanied by regular headaches. A new side effect of my night terrors perhaps?
Feeling rushed, I enter the password on my desktop computer before the start-up music has even had time to finish, locate my coursework I’d spent all weekend on and hit print, before grabbing a pair of slim-fit black jeans to squeeze into, complete with the first random t-shirt I find in my drawers. Now with time to spare I lean back onto the bed and rest my strained eyes for a moment, listening to the printer churn out my work and tapping my feet to the rhythmic sound it makes.
Silence follows and I take a moment to enjoy the peace and quiet before attempting to move, only for my body to fail me. Again I try to move, an arm, a leg, but nothing. To say they’ve become unresponsive would be a lie as I’d need to be able to feel my limbs in order for them to ignore me. Even my sight is stolen, for all I know my eyes are open, but I see nothing, just an empty abyss of black, a place where sound is no longer present, only my thoughts are.
That voice fires through me like a bullet tearing at my skin. I’ve heard it before, it’s unnaturally deep and ghostly sound is ingrained within my mind, and spoken as if the owner is laying right beside me.
In what’s a struggle to open my eyes, I’m greeted by such an intense light, that they’re forced to close again, saving them from the pain. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my ear, as they have to endure being inundated by the sounds of the world; car engines motoring down the road, my computer cooling fan spinning at a high speed, even my mother humming to herself from downstairs is enough to pummel my fragile brain, as if I’m using all my senses for the first time, ever.
Like my newly acquired thoughts, it’s only been these last few months that my night terrors have become more vivid and real, leaking into my waking life in quick short blips. Lying flat and gasping for air, I lift my head solely to take a quick scan of the room. I’m alone. So why do I keep searching high and low, in fear that someone else is with me? Again I scan every inch of my room, this time as I stand, only for my initial conclusion to be confirmed. I am alone. Yet that voice, that harrowing sound that pulled me back into the real world resounds within my head, over and over again, as if whoever spoke is still here with me. “Nice one Mitchell,” I mutter to myself. “You really are losing it.”
Having little time to spare wasted on worrying, I grab my freshly printed coursework and stuff it into my rucksack, gel my dark hair to the side, only for it to be flattened by my black snapback cap; a security blanket I never go anywhere without, before dashing for the doorway.
“Mitchell Harper, I do believe this is a record, even for you.” Says my mum, as I hit the bottom step. “How late will you be today?”
Flashing her a tooth filled grin, exposing my dimples, I make my way to the kitchen and an already set up table, complete with breakfast; tea and toast. The kitchen, much like the house, is small, but enough for my family. The counter tops are grey and follow the wall around until they get to the large window that overlooks the back garden, with a sink centred in the middle, making washing up that little less boring. Leaving only a small area for a table, complete with three chairs, which can be cramped when we all eat here at the same time.
Taking a quick swig of my tea, I winch as the scolding hot liquid burns the tip of my tongue. “Whoa whoa whoa!” says mum in her soft voice, joining me at the table. “You’ve plenty of time.”
We have similar features, big round eyes, and a button nose – it’s a Harper thing, apparently – only she’s blonde, and her hair flows down past her shoulders. She’s youthful looking, barely lined and her frame is petite; most people are amazed she even has kids, let alone two teenage boys.
“Heard you stirring a lot last night,” she says, lifting one of her eyebrows. “Should I make an appointment with Dr. Cooper?”
Chewing a mouth full of jam covered toast, I shake my head and swallow the large chunks, almost choking as I do so. “No, no,” I reply through coughs. “I haven’t had a night terror in weeks, I’m just swamped with coursework is all.”
She holds my gaze for a moment, pursing her lips, before returning to her emails on her smartphone, swiping through them as she mumbles the words aloud. Her job, an IT engineer, can be quite demanding at times, but has been perfect for her raising two young boys, giving her the opportunity to work from home, as she didn’t get much help from her parents when we were younger. They aren’t estranged from one another, just not that close. We’re lucky if we see them twice a year, birthdays and Christmas – that’s if they haven’t flown away for the winter.
Heavy footsteps sound from the hallway, breaking the silence mum and I have fallen into as we finish our breakfast. “Good morning!” beams my twin brother Matthew.
We aren’t identical, far from it. He has the look of a typical jock; tall, bulging muscles and dark blonde hair. Most people can’t see the resemblance at all and don’t believe we’re even brothers, let alone twin brothers. There is only one similarity we bare, an eye disorder called heterochromia, where our eyes are a different colour to each other. My left eye being green, and the other being brown. Although we couldn’t even get that right, as his right eye is the green one, and his left is brown.
Strutting into the kitchen with his chest out and head held high, Matthew grabs the newspaper from the table and begins to read it as he leans into the counter – normally the sports section – while gulping a protein shake, which would explain why he’s in his gym gear.
“Good session?” asks mum, lifting her head momentarily, before returning it to her phone seconds later.
“Not a full one this morning, as I got rugby training this afternoon.” He replies, tilting his head back to finish the last of his shake.
“Make sure you don’t burn yourself out.” Says mum, as she flips her phone to hide the screen and pushes it away; something she’s done since we were children, used only when she wants/has to pay full attention.
Smirking a non-dimpled smile at her, Matthew slides into the empty chair between us and snatches her mobile from the table. “Don’t worry about me mum, I’ll be fine.” He boasts, mockingly mimicking her as he noses through her emails. “Uh oh, someone’s computer won’t print,” he adds. “Disaster!”
Grabbing back her phone, mum places it in her briefcase, completely out of reach from Matthew, as they then continue to talk all things Rugby, a conversation I have never been able to join them on. So I sit back and finish my breakfast while checking my mobile to see if I’ve had any more interest in a photo album I posted online a few weeks ago. It’s mainly landscape pictures taken from around my hometown of Shellbourne, England, or ‘The Shells’ as some out-of-towners have come to call it. Mainly due to the long stretch of sandy beaches, the best in England, so they say – whoever they are – and it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular location for holiday makers. Aside from the beaches, there’s lively nightclubs and bars, beautiful gardens, high-street shopping and a large leisure complex, which host various festivals.
“Mitchell!” says Matthew while clapping his hands in my face. “You listening to me?”
Caught in a daze, I blink hard and take a quick breath to regain my focus. No longer is the room warm and stuffy, but cold and empty. Standing beside me is Matthew, who is now dressed in his normal clothes, a t-shirt, and light jeans. Somehow he’s had enough time to get ready for college; he’s even fixed his hair, combed back like normal.
Rubbing my eyes in disbelief, I stare back at the now empty chair my mum had occupied, then at Matthew. “W-W-Where?”
“Where’s mum?” he confirms, frowning down at me. “She left like twenty minutes ago.”
“Mitchell?” he adds. “You ok?”
But his words flow past me without so much as registering, dampened by the ringing of that one word that calls out to me, a voice filled with darkness. Over and over it speaks a secret whisper from deep within, begging to get out, begging for its freedom.
And it says. “Soon!”
Scanning the room, I try to find anything that’ll confirm this is nothing more than one of Matthew’s stupid jokes, but even the clock above the table has moved on considerably.
With his eyes narrowing in on me, Matthew asks again. “Are you ok Mitchell?”
Unable to get my thoughts together, I hesitate an answer. “I’m fine.” I flatly reply.
Tightening my grip on my phone, I briskly swipe through the photo album I’d left open. “Was just checking through my new album,” I add, pretending to pay attention to the images on the screen.
An uncomfortable silence follows, one that is so awkward, I have to delve into my rucksack, rummaging through my notebooks, in an attempt to avoid it. I can never tell whether Matthew can see through my lies, and think most of the time he just humours me, not wanting to make me feel uncomfortable, in a bid to spare my feelings.
Turning his attention to the fridge, Matthew then begins ransacking any food he can lay his hands on, not only for his lunch but also one of many snacks he consumes throughout the day, to keep his large body running.
“Anyways,” he says, leaning on the fridge door. “I’m getting a lift into college this morning. You need a ride?”
My whole body stops, along with my trail of thought as I desperately try and think up some kind of excuse. Anything to get me out of a car ride with his friends. Matthew’s a popular guy, a rugby player, and with it comes the sporty friends. So the last thing they want to see is his – for lack of a better word – nerdy brother tagging along. Of course, the feeling is mutual, I have nothing to say to them, and would rather walk in the freezing cold rain than spend five minutes in a car listening to Patrick and/or Alec drone on.
“Not today,” I lie. “I don’t have to be in my first class, so thought I’d hang around here for a bit… studying.”
His eyes narrow in on me again. “Sure you’re ok?”
I fake a quick laugh. “Yes. I’m fine.”
It’s obvious he wants to say more, ask what’s bothering me. His mouth even jolts open for a second before he abandons whatever he was going to say, then his head dives back behind the fridge door, allowing me to breathe a quick sigh of relief.
“Thanks for the offer, though,” I add, not wanting to appear rude.
To which he throws me a nod, before stuffing various different foods into his bag, normally some kind of meat and a few yogurt pots or fruit.
A loud honking sound then travels through the house, catching me off guard, as it continues to blast and echo around the hallway much longer than is needed, but this is one of Matthew’s friends after all, and they like to be noticed. Grabbing his now full bag, Matthew swings it over his shoulder and stands in front of the mirror, pushing a stray hair back in place. “Sure you don’t need a ride?”
“No,” I lie, again. “I’m good.
“Catch ya later then.” He calls out, slamming the front door behind him.
And now all I can do is wait uncomfortably in the kitchen clock watching and impatiently foot tapping, as I listen out for the car, urging them to go already. Luckily they don’t waste any time in starting up the engine and roaring onto the main road before the sound begins nothing more than a whisper fading into the distance.
Leaving nothing else for me to do but grab my rucksack and sprint for the front door.
The air is damp and feels heavy on my skin as it rushes past my face, chilling it. The ground is wet, but no puddles have formed from the night of showers. A typical January morning. Racing against the clock, I know I must have less than five minutes before my bus turns up and if I miss it I’ll be walking the whole way, or waiting an extra thirty minutes for the next one. Either way, I’ll definitely be late. I can already see Mrs Armstrong’s disapproving look as I walk into my first class with my head down, mouthing the words, ‘sorry I’m late,’ in front of a class full of sniggering students. The thought of it alone speeds my pace, making my rucksack bounce heavily behind me, shuffling my already unorganised work further.
Startled by the sounds of a car horn, I almost choke on my own breath, and turn just in time to witness the car I’ve just run out in front of brake and skid. Our eyes meet, mine and the angry driver’s, so I throw him a quick wave of the hand in a way to signal an apology, only for him to curse me out the window. I know I should apologise further, at least stop, but the image of Mrs Armstrong’s disapproving face comes into view again, pushing me onwards.
Relief flows through my exhausted body as the bus stop comes into sight, with people stood around it still waiting. Meaning I haven’t missed the bus, and can slow my pace, not to a walk, but a light jog, with the help of my fist jabbed into my side to dull a stitch.
Arriving at the stop just as the bus pulls into the main road, I bundle along with the other passengers to the door, in order to make a queue, gaining second place, much to the moans and grunts of the people behind me. Knowing I was the last person to the stop, I try and refrain from making eye contact with any of them, as I really should be at the back, but after a run like that, I’m in dire need of a seat. It’s busier than normal and I pass the many suits on their commute to work as I walk down the middle of the aisle. Towards the back is mainly college students, all hunched closely together, chattering about their ‘amazing’ weekends. This is a common sight for the morning bus, suits at the front and students at the back, with my place somewhere in the middle. And with my headphones in, I turn up the volume to drown out both crowds endless blabbering.
Head resting against the window, I begin to lose myself in the music – an old soul singer – while playing with the condensation, doodling marks mindlessly. Hypnotised by the blur of buildings speeding past, combined with the gentle vibrations of the engine, my heavy eyes fight to stay open, and I feel like an infant resisting naptime, so I select a more upbeat song to try and keep myself from nodding off.
Being no more than half the way through my journey to college, I’m hit by a sudden wave of panic, not a strong feeling like theirs a dire situation ahead of me, but more subtle, like I’ve left the front door open, or my computer switched on. Even more strangely so, it pulls at me, wanting my attention to the front of the bus. I try to fight it, hoping this stomach-churning moment will pass, only for it to grow stronger; like it knows I’m disobeying it.
I give in, unable to take the pain any longer and look in the direction it wants, only to be met by a dark – nearly black – haired girl facing my way. She’s noticed me, having already been staring as we made eye contact, but she doesn’t look away, even in the knowledge that I’ve caught her, she continues to look at me with her big dark bug-like eyes. She can’t be much older than me, maybe a year or two, if that, and her head is shaved on one side, with the rest of her hair sweeping over the top and dangling down the other side, passing her shoulders. Her face, pale and expressionless, is one that I feel like I’ve seen before, but cannot place. Slowly, she begins to smile, a creepy grin, one that is awkward, like she’s never attempted such a thing before in her life.
Disoriented, I lose track of my thoughts and become lost in her presence. Then it hits me, I’m sure she hasn’t blinked once since she’s been looking at me, but then, have I? It’s then I begin to notice a light ringing resonate in my ears, a humming sound, the likes received after taking a knock to the head. And still her eerie smiles remains, unmoved on her stone-like face. How long we continue to stare I am unsure, as my surroundings become blackened, overlaid by a thick fog that has befallen upon the bus, blanking out everything that once was; leaving only her.
It’s calming without thoughts or the presence of others. So I allow myself to become lost in the empty abyss of nothingness, a place I feel I’ve been before, where only she and I reside. And… I think I like it.
Shaken to the core by a force, allows my shattered consciousness to regain a fragment clarity, dispelling the darkness from my vision and my connection with her.
“Hello?” a voice speaks, elongating the ‘O’ longer than is needed.
Again I’m shaken, nudged into a hard, cold panel that repels me back into an upright position. Only to be greeted once more. “Hello,” they say as they did before like someone has hit repeat and is replaying the same verse of a song. “Anybody home?”
Dazed, as if a good night’s sleep has been interrupted, I turn to find Riley, my best and only mate since primary school sitting beside me. “You alright?” he asks.
Staring back to the seat she had been sitting at, I’m amazed to find it now empty, and begin to wonder whether anyone had occupied it at all.
“Mitch?” Riley says firmly. “Are you ok?”
“Yeah, yeah, fine.” I shoot back, shaking my head to clear away the foggy mess it’s become. “You happen to notice a girl getting off the bus when you got on?”
Raising an eyebrow, Riley shrugs. “Sure,” he confirms, sending my heart racing. “A few.”
“Dark hair. Shaved at the side.” I add, chewing at my bottom lip as I desperately try to pinpoint more features. “Um, big eyes.”
“Ok, ok,” he replies, pacifying me with his raised hands. “I get it, semi-goth girl with eyes.”
“She wasn’t a goth.”
“Either way, I didn’t see her.” he confirms.
His words hit me like a bus going full speed down the main road. That connection we shared was too intense not to be real, something I’ve never experienced in my life… ever. Even now I can still feel her presence, like a piece of her is in me and vice versa. Could it have been just another dream? A waking one?
“Why so sad Mitch?” asks Riley. “This a new girlfriend of yours, or have you passed the point of loneliness and decided to just make one up?” he adds with a snigger.
Being short and skinny, with curly chocolate coloured hair, Riley is masked by a ‘cute’ factor – something he has been referred to and has used to get out of trouble on many occasions. And this is only made worse by the fact he has the lightest blues eyes and freckles that sit just below them. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with him at all, as no sixteen-year-old guy ever wants to be labelled as cute. He’ll even admit he’s ‘far from it,’ and, ‘annoying, sarcastic and rude.’ But one twinkle of those eyes and bam! Any middle-aged women are under his spell.
“Does the none goth girl with big eyes have a name?” he adds smugly.
I shrug. “How would I know her name?”
“You made her up.”
“And we’re done.” I shoot back.
Having had his annoyance feed for the day – much earlier than normal – Riley leans into his seat, rolling his head back onto the rest behind. He then proceeds to fill me in on his whole weekend, right down to the very last detail. “And then I woke up late this morning and had to race to the bus stop!” he adds. “It’s just gonna be one of those days, I can feel it.”
Rocking us all as it takes the last corner, the bus powers down the main road towards the college, bringing into view the old style clock tower that sits adjacent to the main campus, signalling it’s time to start moving. The whole complex as a whole is very old fashioned, with aged bricks and green vines growing up the main building. The tower itself has also succumbed to age through neglect, as it has never worked, not even when it was first built, and with today’s technology it still chooses not to tick. Somethings are just not meant to work, and this is one of them. Personally, I’ve always viewed it as a bit of an eyesore, one that gives me a bad feeling whenever I look upon it, and I’ve always hoped they’d just knock it down if only to enlarge the overly crowded car park.
Standing first, Riley begins to make his way to the front of the bus with me following closely behind, swinging from one bar to the next. If only the student ahead had done the same they wouldn’t have been thrown forward when the bus comes to an immediate halt, knocking the person in front, who in turn knocks the person stood before them, causing a domino effect through the line. Turning to me with his teeth bared, Riley tries his hardest to hold in a laugh, as I try to avoid all eye contact with him, knowing he’ll do something that’ll have me in stitches, all for the state of my embarrassment at the scene I’d create.
Doors open and a rush is made to exit the bus, as student after student piles out onto the pavement. “Do we really have to go in?” Riley groans, already knowing the answer.
The morning is like every other Monday morning. My first class with Mrs Armstrong, which I was just in time for, drags on while she stands at the front, mumbling her way through a presentation. I take a seat towards the back of the room to hide from her line of sight as she has a tendency to pick on students, and I’m sure I see the pleasure in her eyes when her victim struggles to answer her questions. My second class is no better, running over by fifteen minutes as the tutor, Mr Cay, rambles on for basically the whole lesson, then expects us to write up said lesson in the remaining five minutes he gives us. Somehow he’s even surprised when we don’t finish on time. After which I have some spare time to waste before lunch, so head to the computer room to touch up my coursework, sort my unorganised folders and browse the internet aimlessly.
Busy as always, the canteen boasts it’s normal influx of students for a Monday lunchtime. Even with a large number of table and chairs stationed throughout the grease smelling room, there is never enough space for us all, leading to students having to double up on chairs, all so they can sit together in their clicks and discuss plans for the weekend coming. As usual, I sit alone amongst the sea of people and noise waiting on Riley, who’s late – which is a regular occurrence.
Overly stretching to get a better view of the door, my hopes are fulfilled as Riley strolls in to save me from the sneers of others, angered by the very thought that I alone should take up a whole table to myself. Slumping into the seat opposite me, he lets out a loud sigh and throws his bag on the chair beside him. “Is it really only Monday?” he fumes, planting his head into his palms.
I don’t answer him, he’s obviously had a bad start to the week, and I too don’t want to admit it’s only Monday. But whatever was bothering him fades away quickly as he rummages through his bag and pulls out a large sandwich, releasing the strong smell of tuna the second he breaks the foil wrapping, sending my stomach churning as it hits my nose. “Not eating Mitch?” he asks, with a mouth full of food.
With a lack of appetite, I’d completely forgotten about food and the thought of it now makes me feel somewhat queasy. Which would explain the filthy looks I’ve been getting, as not only have I taken up a full table, but I’ve not even attempt to eat during the busiest time. “Nah,” I reply. “I’m not really that hungry.”
“More for me then,” he says, reaching into my bag and pulling out the baguette I’d prepared the night before.
And in his haste he leaves the flap of my rucksack wide open, exposing my sketch pad resting atop my notebooks. Lunging across the table the second this catches his eyes, he grabs the pad before I have time to stop him. In a panic, I launch myself from my seat in a futile attempt to reclaim it from his grasp, only for him to slap my hands away with ease.
“Mitch! These are really good,” he beams, sounding surprised as he flips through the pages. “Why haven’t you shown me any of your latest sketches?”
I’ve never willingly shown him any of my previous ones. He’s always sneakily looked through my pad while I’ve left it unattended, or, like today, grabbed it in full view of me, knowing I won’t make a scene in such a public place. I wouldn’t mind so much, but sketching is merely a hobby I do in my spare time, something to switch my mind off for a few hours, to escape the outside world. The finished product being for my eyes only, not the eyes of others.
“This the clifftops?” he asks. “They’re great, and the detail is amazing!”
“Thanks!” I snap. “Now can you hand me my pad back,” I add through gritted teeth.
Slamming the pad shut, he throws it my way. “It’s called a compliment.” He retorts. “Look it up.” Then he returns to his sandwich, sulkily so.
With his blue eyes stationary, Riley drifts in and out of a daydream, blissfully unaware of the overcrowded room full of many glares pointed our way. Unfortunately, for me I’m only too aware and begin to feel uncomfortable, so much so I retreat to my mobile, head down facing the screen in an attempt to block them out. Only for it to rise again by the sound of my name. “Mitchell!” a voice hollers across the canteen.
Jerking my head around, I find Matthew jumping up and down, waving his hands above his head booming his voice across the room again. Crowds of students look at him, some displeased by the crazy fool making a scene while they try to hold a conversation with their peers. I want to look away, make out he means some other Mitchell, but everyone has already zoned in on me, causing my face to turn a dark shade of red.
Leading his two best friends, Patrick, and Alec, Matthew manoeuvres himself between groups, trying his hardest to tread carefully as he does so. Knowing we have mere seconds before he lands upon us, I cough loudly to grab Riley’s attention, but he’s too lost in a trance to notice, completely unaware of the impending trouble coming our way. Normally we’d pretend we were just about to leave, offering them the table before making a swift exit, but Riley’s barely made a start on my sandwich, so they’d know we were lying.
Taking a seat beside me, Matthew sits first, while Patrick and Alec sit either side of a now hardened faced Riley, with Alec moving Riley’s bag from the chair to the sticky floor in the process. “Mitchy!” Alec cheers, looking me up and down. “Where you been hiding?”
I can’t help but want to laugh at him swamping the chair he’s sat in with his huge muscles, trapped within a tight t-shirt and shorts, easily the largest of the three.
“Nowhere in particular,” I reply. “Just the usual –”
“Dude, did you see Lily checking me out throughout first period?” interrupts Patrick.
Of course, Patrick is talking about some girl, it’s his usual topic of choice, which I’ve always summed up to him being the smallest of the three, although still pretty stocky by my standards. And with olive skin paired with his green eyes, he’s most defiantly the vainest, having already caught him checking himself out in the window reflection numerous times since he’s sat down.
And as they continue to talk through Riley – as if he weren’t there – about this girl named Lily, I notice Matthew, who’s normally the talker, has hardly said anything and catch him staring into space, deep in thought. “Matthew?” I murmur, to avoid any input from Patrick and Alec. “Bit quiet today.”
He blinks, as if I’ve just pulled him out of a daydream, then nods unconvincingly. “I’m just a little tired,” – he hesitates – “guess mum was right.”
Unsatisfied by his response, I want to push for more, but decide against it for now as it’s obviously none of my business. And besides, he’s already been pulled into the conversation with Patrick and Alec, who’ve begun discussing all things rugby.
Finishing his final bite, Riley glares at me from between the bulging biceps and mass of muscles. With a quick flick of his eyes towards the exit, I excuse myself from the table, saying my goodbyes to them all. “Catch ya later,” says Matthew, while Patrick and Alex say nothing, having not noticed my standing up, or choosing to ignore it, the latter being more likely.
And even when Riley tries to squeeze by to get his bag they continue to talk, with Alec barely moving his leg so Riley has to suck in his already skinny frame, as he mumbles what I think is ‘excuse me,’ while shuffling through the minimal space he’s been given.
Flustered, Riley breathes a sigh of relief as he motors towards the exit at a pace I struggle to keep up with. “How does your brother put up with those guys?” he fumes.
I shrug. “Dunno. Maybe we both just have really bad taste in friends?” I then grin, exposing my dimples.
“Don’t I know it,” replies Riley, before throwing me a perplexed look. “Hey!”
He might be cute, but he’s definitely not the smartest.
Having had my final class cancelled due to the tutor being ill, it means I’m able to catch the bus home with Riley and considering my waking dreams only seem to happen when I’m left to my own devices, I’m somewhat pleased.
Having arrived just as a bus left, we both take a place at the stop, knowing we have a twenty-minute wait ahead of us. Which Riley decides to fill with a rant about his career choice, stating he’s not even sure he wants to be a chef anymore, and that he panicked when making picking a course. “Did you not feel the same pressure?” he asks.
“Of course,” I reply. “We’re still young, yet we’re asked what we want to be when we grow up.”
“And you picked computer illustration because you want to be a…” he rolls his hands, wanting me to finish his sentence.
“How should I know.” I retort. “I like computers, I like art, so it kind of felt like the right area.”
“I guess we all have to start somewhere,” I add. “Like everyone else before us.”
Looking right through me, Riley sits rigidly on the plastic bench with his eyes bulging out of his head, much like he was at lunchtime. So instantly I begin to think the worst, searching our surroundings for the first sights of Patrick and/or Alec, while also looking out for our quickest escape route. But to my relief I see Aimee walking our way, the same cannot be said for Riley, as he’s had a crush on her since they were placed in the same meet and greet group during fresher’s week.
Unaware of our presence, Aimee mouths along to the song playing through her headphones. “Why today.” Whispers Riley. “Can’t we just make a run for it?”
But it’s too late, with her wondering eyes, Aimee clocks us and immediately greets us. “Hi guys!” she cries, with an over dramatic wave.
Leaping to the bench, Aimee sits beside Riley, who beams a semi-awkward, yet happy smile. I can see the attraction, she’s petite, has black short hair and her skin is a beautiful light brown, which matches the colour of her almond shaped eyes.
Knowing Riley won’t say a word, I step in to break the awkward silence. “How’s it going?” I ask.
Caught mid-stretch, Aimee lets out a high pitched sigh. “Great! I’ve got gymnastics’ training in a bit.”
This would explain her athlete build and perky attitude, a trait I’ve always liked about her… in small doses. For she has a tendency to overexcite herself, becoming somewhat unruly and in all honesty, quite annoying.
She continues. “You know how it is, practise, practise, practise!”
I have no idea. Sports and I are a no no. But it’s always nice to hear about all the medals she’s won, as she continues to explain about her upcoming competitions, in a bid to get Riley’s attention.
Having now become awkward by his silence, I decide to take matters into my own hands. “Oh cool,” I say, slyly nudging him. “You’ll have to let us know the next time you compete, Riley and I will come along. Right, Riley!?”
Brought back by the sound of his name, Riley flinches slightly before answering. “Yeah.” He mutters with red cheeks.
“Awesome!” she shrieks, clapping her hands together in celebration.
We then spend the next few minutes talking about college, I having swayed the conversation that way in a hope that Riley would have joined in, although he just continues to give us one-word answers here and there until Aimee’s mum turns up. She looks like Aimee, only an older version, and her hair is longer with streaks of grey throughout. Speaking in English with a Filipino twang, she calls to Aimee, who understands the switch in language with ease, even answering in a mix of both.
“Hello, Mrs Day,” I call out, to which she smiles and waves out the open car window.
“Well, I’ll see you guys soon,” says Aimee, as she gets in the passenger seat.
And as the car pulls away, I watch Riley’s sad eyes follow, once again he knows he’s missed another opportunity to speak with her. “So,” I say. “That was awkward.”
Turning to me slowly with a glare, Riley purses his lips. “Don’t.” He fumes through gritted teeth. “Just don’t.”
Although we love to wind each other up, there are times in which I know I should never push him, this being one of those times. So we return to the awkward silence as I try and think up something to say, a subject change to take his mind off her. Mentioning our favourite TV show seems to do the trick and gets him talking again, albeit sulkily. Finally, luck comes my way in the form of a bus turning up early, meaning I don’t have to nurse Riley’s sullen mood much longer.
Having spent the best part of the evening locked away in my bedroom sketching some photos I’d taken from around Shellbourne, I unknowingly skip dinner, having been so engrossed in my work. Although still not hungry, I know I haven’t eaten since breakfast, so force feed myself half a bowl of instant noodles before feeling sick.
An echo of footsteps trails through the house, as they make their way up the stairs. I guess it’s probably mum coming home late from work, only for that to be confirmed when she slides her head around the door, giving the illusion she has no body. “Sketching?” she asks in a husky voice.
Swiftly shutting my pad, I answer. “Just a few to pass the time.”
She doesn’t ask to look, she knows not to. “Think I’m going straight to bed.” She yawns. “Matthew home?”
“No, not yet, think he’s probably out with Patrick and Alec,” I reply.
“Ok, well don’t stay up too late, you know how you can get.” She says while retreating to her room.
Of course I know how I can get, I’ve never been allowed to forget.
Deciding on one more sketch before bed, something different instead of another landscape, I lean back into my chair and spin slowly. Ideas are in the few this evening with only one that stands out in my mind, allowing room for no others, and before I know it my pencil is moving across the page, as I translate the image from my memory to paper.
A good hour passes before I’m finished, and as I hold up my sketch, I stare deeply into her round eyes, already feeling the same strange pull I did when we first ‘met.’
Who are you?
Falling through the darkness, I am nothing but thoughts; a mind, taken away from my physical body and thrown into a state of consciousness where no one can reach me. Am I home? It doesn’t feel like it. Maybe I’ve wandered outside, it wouldn’t be the first time mum or Matthew would’ve found me prowling through the garden in a trance like state.
Once again that voice taunts me, sending a shiver directly to my core, enough to rip me right out of the darkness and heave me back into the real world, waking me. But I feel no tiredness, instead, my mind is focused, my body pumped and senses heightened; I feel energised.
Thick black clouds swirl above me, like looking into a kaleidoscope, they twirl and weave within themselves, covering the sky in its entirety. I was right, I have wandered outside and now find myself lying on the pavement with small jagged stones prodding at my back. “Not again,” I mutter to myself.
Pushing myself from the ground I notice I’m fully clothed, wearing what I had on yesterday. Which seems right as I don’t remember changing, but then again I don’t remember much else after I finished that sketch of the dark haired girl. Mum was right, maybe I should go to bed earlier.
It’s cold out, but bearable, considering it’s the middle of winter and should be far worse. A gust of wind then blows rustling the twiggy branches of a tree beside me, instantly chilling me amidst the darkened street I’ve awoken on. This place is not one I’m familiar with, and the only visible light is the few streetlamps that line the deserted road ahead of me. How have I made it this far with no other human interaction to wake me? Normally I make it as far as the garden before mum or Matthew catch up with me, having heard the front door slam or my heavy footsteps stumbling through the hallways.
Moving before my eyes have had time to adjust to the dim lighting, I struggle to find my footing upon the cracked and uneven road, which would explain the lack of cars. But the destruction doesn’t stop there, it spread outwards like a virus has ravaged this once residential street, turning gardens into piles of dirt and reducing houses to crumbling piles of rubble. And it’s the same the further I travel, houses left half standing or completely wiped out to nothing, until I reach a building that’s boarded up like the rest of them, only with writing across the wooden planks. Stepping closer to get a better look, I haul myself up onto the stone wall outside, only to realise it’s the Shellbourne Civic Centre, a government building, and written upon it are the words:
ONLY HUMAN SOULS BURN.
Taking off at the sight of it, I ignore the eerie feeling traveling down by spine, one so strong it makes my knees go weak. Powering through the numbness, I no longer care about treading carefully to avoid injury, I just want to put as much distance between me and the cryptic sign. What could it mean? Was it a warning, or maybe worse, a statement. The only thing I do know for sure is something terrible has happened here, the town I once knew is no more, Shellbourne has succumbed to some kind of disaster and not survived.
Endless thoughts plague my mind, ones that I try to ignore, only for them to scream at me until I take notice. I awoke alone, dumped at the side of a road. Had I become a burden to my family, a dead weight only slowing them down in the chaos that had befallen upon this town? Surely not, they couldn’t do such a thing, but then why am I here alone?
Panicked, I quicken my pace, running aimlessly through the streets of overturned cars and discarded furniture. Where am I running to? I have no idea, but my tired legs continue to move onwards, towards the unknown. Ahead I see an orange glow, shimmering out in the distance, accompanied by the raising of thick black smoke. I arrive to metal gates, familiar, only dirtied and broken from their hinges. Above should be a sign telling me where I am, but I can see it’s been destroyed. Regardless, I know exactly where I am, Shellbourne gardens. What was once a beautiful, lush and green landscape, is now a barren wasteland of craters filled with charred timber, which still smoulder. I turn away, unable to look at the mess it’s become, and within seconds I’m off again, sprinting down another darkened street.
It’s not long before I find myself outside what used to be my college. Now a shadow of its former self, it’s replaced with a shell of a building. Every window has been smashed, leaving only scorched frames in their place. The reception is no more, crushed by the roof that has given way and caved in, spewing broken bricks and glass across the car park. Ironically, only the broken clock tower has survived the mass destruction, standing tall with little damage. Sinking further into turmoil I want to laugh through my fear, how has this ugly clock tower survived out of everything? It’s like someone is playing a joke, purposely for me.
Exhausted, I stop in my tracks. What am I to do? Keep going, holding on to that remaining ounce of hope I have left. I have no idea, I don’t even know if there’s anyone still left in this derelict ghost town. In a desperate attempt to find some comfort, I picture my family, but it doesn’t help, my thoughts are tainted. I can only see them running scared, ditching me. I don’t even know if they’re still alive, or if anyone is. Looking to the floor through blurred vision, a tear drops from my cheek and hits the ground, disturbing a pile of ash. Falling to me knees I feel nothing, my body being unable to register anything further, like pain. Having nowhere else to go I remain here on the ground, silence, in the middle of a wasteland I once called a home, defeated.
I can’t say how long I remain frozen for, time is irrelevant to me now. It’s only when I hear footsteps cautiously walking through the deserted car park that my consciousness comes back. On my feet, before I have a chance to think, I turn to face a short guy, slowly walking my way. No older than myself, he’s naturally tanned with dark hair; someone I’ve never laid eyes upon before, which doesn’t seem to stop him proceeding any closer. “Who are you!?” I yell.
He stops, standing directly in front of me, looking down at himself, then behind, as if he thought I was speaking to someone else.
“I said who are you!?”
He looks down at himself again. “You talking to me?” he asks.
“Of course I am!” I answer, taking a sly step back.
His presence feels odd to me like his body is sending out waves of emotions, mainly nervousness; a pulsating rush of butterflies turning and knotting my stomach. Made worse when I catch sight of his eyes, a horror I have to turn away from. They’re pure white, missing the pupils and irises.
“You – you can see me?” he asks, somewhat perplexed.
With another step back, I answer. “Yes.”
I don’t know how he could possibly think I wouldn’t see him, his eyes alone are like shining beacons in the darkness. Had he suffered the same fate as me? Tossed aside at the first sight of danger, only to wake dazed and alone. It would explain his odd behaviour. “Where am I?” he frantically asks. “What is this place?”
He fires his words at me, repeating the same questions over and over, blurting them out in quick succession to a point I can barely understand him. And in a selfish way, I become somewhat envious of him, wishing I too had no idea where we were, if only so I could be in the position to fire off questions in the hope someone will fill in all the gaps as to what has happened here.
“Calm down,” I implore, edging myself toward him. “You’re in a town called Shellbourne, but something is very wrong here.”
“You’re telling me, bro,” he shoots back with a forced laugh, and once again he returns to firing off more questions.
If only he’d met the right brother, if only he’d met Matthew, captain of his rugby team, a natural born leader. He’d be able to figure out a plan, take this blabbering mess under his wing, not me. Right now I’d love nothing more than to hide away in my bedroom, under my duvet in the hope this’ll all go away, but I don’t even know if I have a home anymore, let alone a bedroom.
“You live here?” he frantically asks.
“I do – did – I don’t know anymore,” I reply.
“Can I ask,” I add, taking another step closer. “Why wouldn’t I be able to see you?”
He stops abruptly, blinking his milky eyes at me. “Normally people don’t see me.”
He shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter, you wouldn’t understand.”
But in an odd way I do, as I’ve lived my whole life going unnoticed by others, sometimes I even wonder whether any of my tutors even know my name… not that I’m complaining.
Taking a seat on a half-broken wall outside the carpark, I offer the place beside me to the now semi-subdue out of towner. “I’m Mitchell Harper,” I begin. “And you?”
He looks to the ground, watching his dangling feet, which I’m thankful for, as it means I don’t have to look him in the eyes. “I’m Tane,” he confirms. “Tane-James, but everyone just calls me TJ.” His words are still quick, but better pronounced revealing a slight accent, one I’ve never heard before.
“This place,” he adds, looking up to the sky. “It feels weird; unnatural.”
But before I have a chance to answer a blood-curdling roar explodes from a distance, echoing through the open carpark, chilling me to the bone.
Both flinching, we nearly fall from the wall. “What was that!?” TJ cries, leaping to the ground.
The uproar was close, not more than a few roads over. Instantly I think of my mother and brother, and without warning I’m off, powering down the street, with TJ following closely behind. “Wait!” he cries. “Will you stop!”
Mind clouded, I stop on the spot until TJ catches me. “What’re you thinking bro? Look around you!” he yells. “For all we know the cause of this” – he waves his hands around frantically – “could be what’s just cried out! And you want to run to it!?”
“I have to! My family could be there!”
“Or no one could be.” He says hesitantly. “Think about it Mitchell, how many other people have you met tonight? Other than me.”
“I’m sorry TJ, but I have to know.” That being said, I’m off again already halfway down the street before I’ve even finished my sentence.
“Dammit!” yells TJ. “Well, wait for me!”
We pass the shopping district, all of which looks the same, buildings collapsed, front windows smashed and their furniture spilling out onto the streets. In the centre is the town square, the focal point for shoppers. It’s a wide open space, with cafés and pubs surrounding it. This is where Shellbourne would hold its town events, a food festival or a market, amidst the many walled flower beds. Normally they house a variety of different flowers, but tonight they are filled with burning embers. The flames, so bright, illuminate the square, revealing a crowd of people directly in the middle of it. From this distance, it’s hard to tell how many there are, but it has to be about thirty, maybe more. All of which are kneeling and facing away from us. Apart from four people that stand at the front facing them, two males one side and two females the other, all wearing white, in contrast to those kneeling who all wear black.
“Who, or what are they?” whispers TJ.
The more he questions the more I begin to wish I was alone, as I myself already have countless unanswered questions swirling around in this empty space I call a brain, to which he’s only adding to.
“I have no idea,” I mumble.
Holding back to the shadows, we remain out of view, all the while trying to get a better look so we can access the situation. Once again I can’t help but think Matthew would already have a plan of action together, or maybe he’d have already swooped in and stopped whatever it is that’s about to happen. And TJ isn’t much help, having returned to his panicked state, he begins pacing back and forth muttering to himself about people who have fallen, or something like that.
“Will you hush up,” I mutter. “I can’t focus. I’ll need to get closer.”
Back at my side, he pulls me around to face him and stares at me with the shining torches he calls eyes. “Think about this bro. Those people do not look like they’re there of their own free will.”
“You say we leave them?” I shoot back.
“I say we think about this properly. Rather than just charge in.”
I can understand him being reluctant to help, he has nothing invested in this place, so why would he risk his life for them. Again I feel the same envious feeling I had before, it would be so easy to walk away, but that’s just something I could never do.
“I’m sorry TJ, but I have to go.”
He puts his head down. “Then you go alone.”
Suddenly, another cry erupts from the crowd filled with fear, which rips through me, and constricts my lungs, winding me. The four people dressed in white have each taken one corner of the crowd, their hands raised above their heads, and palms facing inwards. What they’re doing, I can’t be sure, but from the reaction of the crowd, it can’t be good. Knowing this could be my only chance for a closer look, I sprint to the nearest flower bed, in the hope no one will see nor hear me through the commotion.
It’s funny, as I never thought I’d be the type of person that would try and save the day, yet here I am running towards a flower bed – of all places – for cover. Of course, I’ve thought about turning back, that would be so much easier and safer, but my legs continue to power on. And with my eyes fixed on my destination, I’m able to block out my surrounding long enough to reach the flower bed, diving behind it.
Uncertain whether I’ve been spotted, I remain still, panting and prepare myself for the worse. But the worse never comes, and the longer I wait uninterrupted, the more I’m filled with hope. So I inch my head around the corner, to check out the situation. The crowd is in a complete frenzy, people are running in all directions as the four dressed in white struggle to keep them in check, but somehow are able to keep them trapped within the centre.
Then they’re silent, which leaves a ringing in my ears and an atmosphere of calm sweeps the square as everyone kneels back to the floor. To the distance, a large building erupts into flames, causing it to crave inward, and from it, a figure emerges. This new person, unharmed, walks briskly towards the centre, their body convulsing with each step like their limbs are stiff. Nearly upon them, I’m able to make out that it’s a guy, with black hair, who also wears white. Turning to him in unison, the crowd stare up as he makes his way closer, before letting out another intense cry that feels as if it’s burst my eardrums.
Harassed by an uneasy feeling, I can’t help but sense there’s something familiar about the black haired guy and his presence. I’m sure I know him. If only I could get a little closer for a better look, but I’d surely be discovered.
Resting my head against the wall, I struggle to think of my next move. If only Matthew was here, he’d know what to do. And with my vision beginning to blur, I slam my fist onto the ground. “Keep it together Mitchell,” I mutter through gritted teeth.
The state of the people only seems to worsen the closer the black hair guy descends upon them, unlike before, hey begin to trample each other, pushing the weaker people to the ground in the chaos. Even the original four in white have difficulties keeping them in place, and some escape, running into the black of night. And before I know it, I’m sprinting towards them, covered by the unruly riot.
Faces of unknown people pass me by, knocking me in their panic. I struggle to get further in, having to watch my step to avoid the unconscious bodies lining the ground. Bodies of all ages, and much more than I’d originally thought.
One of the females in white crosses my path, moving at a speed I’ve never seen before, in pursuit of a limping older man. She pounces on him, knocking him to the ground and sends his body into spasm. I recoil at the sight of his eyes rolling back into his head as he uncontrollable shakes, but she doesn’t let up, she continues to hold him down.
“Help us!” yells a young girl, pulling on my arm.
Only for her to run screaming the second she see my face, right into the arms of a person in white, falling unconscious the second they grab her.
Amidst the mayhem, I stand back watching as each person begins to drop, as I’m left unnoticed, until I feel another tug on my arm, this time, stronger. Expecting the worse, I’m pulled round by the culprit. It’s TJ, with a single teardrop falling from his white eyes and blood dripping from his nose. “Who did this to you!?” I cry, grabbing him by the shoulders.
“Mitchell,” he murmurs. “This isn’t right.”
Barely conscious, he sways back and forth until he stumbles to his knees, splattering some blood to the ground.
Cowering beside him, I try to look at his face. “TJ, please,” I beg. “Who did this to you?”
Letting out a painful cry, one that rivals that of the crowds, TJ succumbs to an unknown strain. “I shouldn’t be here.” He says faintly. “Neither of us should. They want me gone, they don’t want you to know.”
“What do you mean?!” I frantically ask. “What can’t I know?”
He grabs me and pulls me closer. “There’s no time. Trust no one. Think for yourself.” Then his body goes tense and fades away to nothing, disappearing right before my eyes.
Remaining perched next to where his body once laid, it takes a moment for my mind to register what I’d just witnessed, even now I continue to hesitantly touch the ground where he should be. Was this the dark haired girl all over again? Someone I’d made up in my mind? But it felt so real, even now I can since feel his touch lingering on my arm, hear the sound of his voice with the accent I’d never heard before. Surely I couldn’t have imaged it all.
“Fool.” A voice sniggers.
Immediately I’m on my feet, face to face with the dark haired guy. He doesn’t come at me, or attempt to harm me, instead, he stands tall, laughing to himself.
Shrouded in an orange glow, I’m still unable to make out who he is. “What do you want?” I yell.
But he remains silent, smirking at me with his white teeth that shine through the glow, exposing an evil grin, complete with deep set dimples. My dimples. He’s me. Like looking directly into a mirror I stand before my reflection, only my actions are not be reflected back at me.
Flooded by fear, I stumble back and fall to the ground at the very sight of him. With his eyes turning pure white, matching TJ’s, he pushes the orange glow away from his body, growing it in intensity until it ignites into flames. I want to jump to my feet, run and never look back, but the flicker of the fire burning brightly, mesmerises me, holding me in place.
With his movements more fluid than before, he creeps towards me, and his eyes, blacker than the night sky, bare down upon mine as he throws his hands out in front, bringing with them a burning inferno. The flames, moving as if they are alive, ferociously wrap around his arms, travelling down them until they spill onto the floor.
Body rigid, I dig my heels in the ground, pushing with all my might as I desperately try to get away, kicking and thrashing like a fish out of the water. But the serpent-like flame is too fast, dancing across the ground in twists and turns as it slithers ever closer. “Please, no!” I plead.
But his face – my face – just looks on at me, blissfully smiling in silence as the trail of fire encases my body, blistering and searing my skin. Engulfed in a moving agony washing over me, I accept my fate and surrender myself, begging for it to finish me off quickly. And with all hope gone, I lay amidst the blaze I have now become and take my last scorching breath to cry out in pain.
Air rushes into my lungs, freeing my chest of an unknown weight that had been sat upon it. Sweat covered and panting, I remain paralysed, pinned to my bed by fear. Already I know what’s happening to me, as I’ve been here time and time again, yet each time it doesn’t get any less terrifying. It becomes more real, a place in which I’m taken to against my will, filled with an unnatural darkness.
One, two, three. I count my breaths; a technique one of many doctors taught me to use after having one of my episodes. Again, one, two, three.
Shrouded in the dark, the sight of my bedroom is a happy one, for I know I’m safe within my home, but still I do not move. Instead, I wait for my eyes to adjust, making my surroundings that little bit clearer, just to be sure.
Pulling my dampened body from the saturated sheets, I pat my skin, checking there’s no real injuries or burns. There isn’t. But it felt so real, and even now in the coldness of my room, I’m unable to shake the feeling of heat from my body or the overwhelming thoughts of being burned alive.
I know I should be used to this by now, it’s not like I’ve never had a night terror before, but they’re never the same. They take me places I’ve never been before or allow me to meet people I’ve never met, for all I know they might not even exist. And worse of all they throw me into terrible situations which no person should ever have to experience – and this, all from the comfort of my own bed.
‘They’re just images, they cannot harm you.’ Another little gem from one of the many doctors I had the pleasure of meeting as a child, and they are right, in part. They are just imaged strung together in my mind; a film strip blasting out a movie, of which I’m the main star, the critic, and only audience member. Yet recently they are so much more, no longer do they become a hazy memory by morning, as I can now feel emotions, see, smell and touch my surroundings, which in itself makes the whole ordeal real, just like my waking life. It’s tiring. Ironic really, considering this all happens while I sleep.
My mobile screen illuminates as I hit the main button to read it’s 4:56am, which seems unusual as I normally have an episode a lot earlier. They tend to happen shortly after I fall asleep while my mind is still at its most active from the day before, but these things can’t really be timed all that well, they’re completely out of my control. Always have been.
A creak at the door sends my heart into a flutter and I almost dive under my duvet to hide, only to be greeted by the large silhouette of my brother standing before the hallway light. “Again?” he asks.
With his bed hair covering part of his face, Matthew sits at the end of my bed, causing it to shake, like a large lorry has just driven by the house. “What was it this time?” he asks, as I continue to stare at him, relieved he’s really here, confirming it was all just a dream.
“Um, I can’t really remember,” I lie. Not because I have to, but because I want to. How would I even begin to explain what I just saw? Plus, I feel he might take offence if I mention dream-Matthew left me high and dry, even though I know he never would.
And for a moment we sit in silence; Matthew trying to fix his hair while I try my hardest not to replay the dream over and over in my mind.
“They’re becoming more frequent.” He says, once his hair is somewhat better, although still pretty shocking.
“You don’t need to tell me,” I scoff.
To see him here after yet another one of my episodes is the norm, from a young age he’s always been on the front line, rushing in at the last minute to save the day; always being there as I’ve awoken. And I can’t help but feel a wave of guilt, as he’s always been on the other side of my nightmares, having found me numerous times walking the hallways, crying out or fitting in my bed as I’ve become trapped within my own mind. Yet he’s never once complained. That’s why our mum turned her study into a second bedroom for him. She said it was to give me some space, but I know it was to give him the space he deserved.
“Well, whatever it was you were a lot more vocal than normal.” He reveals, raising an eyebrow. “And, what’s a TJ?”
Visions of his pure white eyes play out before me, was he real, or just another body dreamt up along with the evil me. It’s enough to send my thoughts into a downward spiral, so I push them out, blocking them. “I wish I knew,” I reply. I really do.
They say dreams have a meaning to them, so what was his presence in mine? I can still hear his voice with that accent, ‘think for yourself’ he said moments before vanishing. It sounds like something from a self-help book. Which would mean I dreamt up a life coach no older than myself, for guidance at the age of sixteen. Am I really that lost?
“You know the doctors all said the same thing, it gets a lot worse when you’re stressed.” Affirms a noticeably uncomfortable Matthew, he then shakes his head, as if to clear his thoughts. “If something was on your mind, or” – he hesitates – “something is happening to you, you’d tell me right?”
“Yeah, of course I would,” I say through a forced smile, straining my cheeks as I try and hold it in place. But I have the strangest feeling that he already knows, at least in part, that something hasn’t been right for the last few months.
“Because,” – he hesitates again – “others might understand what you’re going through.”
It’s a nice thought and I know I’m not the only one who has night terrors, or some other sleep disorder, but I do know he doesn’t, so he couldn’t possibly understand what I go through. “I’ll keep that in mind,” I flatly reply.
Tapping my mobile, he looks at the time – now shortly past 5am – and makes his way to my door, stopping a few steps short of it. “Just don’t think you have to suffer in silence.” Then he flips the light switch returning us to darkness and is gone.
Staring up at the white ceiling above, I push my head deep into the soft pillow, knowing sleep won’t come easily now. Even if I were tired I wouldn’t be able to switch off, I’m far too wired for sleep, and plagued by the visions of his face – my face – staring down at me. What could it possibly mean? I could never be that evil and twisted… could I?
Right on time my alarm clock begins to beep, but I’m already wide awake, having not slept since my dream. I sigh, pulling myself out of bed and with my head down, I make my way to the bathroom.
“Good morning Mitchell!”
Startled, my whole body jumps. In my sleepy state I hadn’t noticed Matthew creep up behind me. “Really!?” I fume. “You know I didn’t have a good night!”
Every morning after an episode I feel dazed, partly due to the lack of sleep, and partly because my mind hasn’t fully recovered from the nightmare itself.
“Whoa! My bad.” He jeers, biting his lip.
And with a quick sprint he then begins sliding across the laminate flooring, slapping me on the forehead as he passes. “Better hurry, time’s a-ticking.”
To shove him away is futile, although I try, only for him to dodge my advances with ease, leaping down the stairs as he laughs to himself. “Loser!” I call out, only to be met with more laughs.
The bathroom mirror reflection isn’t kind, it shows a tired pasty face looking back at me, with black circles under red puffy eyes and heavy eyelids. But it could be worse, I’ve seen it. Maybe Matthew was right, I must be over stressing and I just need to keep reminding myself I’m not the only one who suffers from this… affliction.
Time to smile Mitchell! It could be worse.
Mum must’ve gone to work early this morning, which meant she couldn’t hold Matthew and me hostage over breakfast, resulting in my arrival to college in record time. And although she never showed up for the bus journey, I couldn’t help but look out for the creeping looking, dark haired girl.
Best of all, I haven’t had one blackout or waking dream all morning, and it’s already lunchtime. Although I’d never tell him, Matthew was right, I just needed to chill out a bit, turn my thoughts off for a while. Something that would be made much easier, for if I were not sat alone in the canteen waiting on Riley, who’s late, again. But it’s not all bad, not like normal, as we both have an earlier lunch on a Tuesday, meaning the canteen is basically deserted; other than me, there’s only two small groups sat way over in the corner by the vending machines.
“Sorry Mitch, Mrs Glynne wouldn’t let me leave.” Fumes Riley, as he slides into the middle seat opposite, wearing his white chef’s uniform, complete with hat.
“She just can’t get enough of you!” I tease.
Scanning my face, Riley raises an eyebrow. “Someone’s in a better mood today.” He says in a tone sharp with sarcasm. “You must have seen your girlfriend this morning.”
“No, sadly not,” I reply, matching his tone. “Maybe she’s cheating on me?”
“Oh no,” he sullenly says with a sympathetic nod. “Well, I’m always here for you, ya know, if you wanna talk?”
Both unable to restrain ourselves any longer, we burst into a laughter that echoes through the empty canteen, garnering unpleased looks from the other groups. “Pretty sure I’ll live,” I laugh. “But thanks.”
Having skipped another meal, of which Riley gladly took off my hands, I begin to feel a little light-headed; nothing a quick sugar rush shouldn’t fix. But as I stand, I stumble forward, nearly landing on Riley’s lap. “Whoa, I said if you wanna talk. Nothing more.” He chuckles.
“Headrush,” I confirm. “Want anything?”
Taking a further bite of his sandwich, adding to his already overloaded mouth, Riley shakes his head. “Nah,” he answers, spitting food across the table.
Being no further than one room’s length away, the vending machines stand, and what should be no more than a 5-10 second walk, feels more like an hours hike. Panting as I lean against the cooling glass, I wipe away a bead of sweat that drips down my forehead to my brow. Could I be getting sick? It would explain the lack of appetite I’ve been having these past few days.
Using the newly purchased can of soda as an ice pack, I press it against my forehead as I make my way back to the table, breathing through the pain of my fatigued muscles. Slumping into the chair, I let out a sigh of relief as my body melts into the hardened plastic, which after that strenuous walk makes it feel like sitting upon a bed of feathers.
Sat quietly – which is unusual for him – Riley smirks a tooth filled grin, fidgeting in his seat, as if he’s about to burst. “Is that her?” he blurts out, unable to contain him for longer than five seconds.
Drained, I take a quick scan of the canteen. “Who?” I mutter.
The smirk grows upon his face as he begins to eagerly bounces up and down, making a chocolate curl fall to his forehead. “In your sketchbook,” he says, pointing to my open rucksack. “The girl! The girl from the bus?”
Choking on my drink, some of which sprays out the side of my mouth, I manage to murmur. “Oh,” while blushing.
Feeling pressured to answer him, made worse the longer we sit in silence, I try my hardest to think of a reply. But what could I possibly say that wouldn’t make me seem like some kind of stalker? Why did I draw her?
“It’s such a good sketch dude!” he states, leaning into the table. “And all from seeing her once? On a bus!”
“Yeah.” I shrug, succumbing to a hot flush.
“Could you,” – he goes silent for a moment, thinking to himself – “sketch me?”
“Yeah, sure.” I agree, purely to move on from the subject so I can try and contend with the sudden rise in temperature my body throws out.
And it seems to work, Riley then turning his attention to his mobile. Playing some new game he downloaded over the weekend, which he’ll be bored of within a few days.
Taking a massive gulp of soda to cool myself, I finish the can without even feeling the coldness hit my stomach. And as the heat wins, I lean forward and rest my head in my clammy hands, watching as a small pool of sweat collects on the table.
“Mitch!?” says a concerned Riley. “You ok?”
But before I can answer he rushes off, leaving me to burn up in the sweltering heat, with only the cool plastic to soothes my scorching skin.
Out of breath from his run, Riley places a small cup of water before me as he returns. “Here, drink this.” He orders.
Lifting my head, I let out a sigh and clear my burning throat. Reaching for the cup and forcing it into my hands, Riley looks down at me with his bright eyes and waits until I take a few sips. Instantly I feel the cold liquid flow into my body, cooling it for a brief moment before adding to the heat. “Better?” he asks.
“I don’t think so,” I reply, my voice harsh and strained. “I think I’m coming down with something.”
“You do look terrible. Seriously, don’t be giving me your germs.” He says, sitting back down. “Maybe you should go home, get some rest. I’ll be able to survive without you for a few days.” He adds, pulling a worried face.
A day at home would help if only to catch up on the sleep I’d missed out on the night before. “You’re right,” I sigh.
“Riley knows best.” He affirms with a nod.
Mustering up all my strength, I manage to pick myself up from the seat. “I’ll text you later,” I assure, making my way to the exit.
“You better.” He calls outs.
Hallways now busy with students making their way to the canteen, I force my way through the crowds until I finally make it to the bus stop, welcoming the damp air as it hits my skin. Arriving no longer than a minute’s wait, I take a seat on the relatively quiet bus, put my headphones in and hum along to a song, trying to take my mind off the aches and pains of my overheated body. And it can’t be more than five minutes in when I’m hit by the same anxious feeling I had the morning I saw her. Begging for my attention once more, I’m forced to turn in the direction I’m being called. Only for our eyes to meet a second time.
Stricken with nerves, I sit upright, staring into the eyes of my unknown stalker. My tense body feeling queasy by the sight of her, and I swallow hard trying to resist the urge to retch.
Her statute-like face floods my every thought, and no matter how hard I try, I can only think of her. Those big round eyes, wide and expressionless like before, are so inviting to me I cannot break my gaze. She draws me in and traps me in her presence, of which I’m powerless to escape.
Taking a sharp corner, the bus sways me into the window, knocking me hard enough to break her hold over me, returning some sort of consciousness back to my crippled mind. But this doesn’t break the feeling I get knowing her eyes are still on me, watching my every move through the strands of dark hair draping across her stern face.
Overwhelmed by fever, I rest my head upon the seat in front, burning as my lava-like blood runs havoc throughout my veins, searing me from the inside. One, two, three. I count my breaths, doing all I can to hold back my shattered mind from being pulled away in pieces, and lift my heavy head to make eye contact with other passengers. Their eyes zone in on me, watching my every move, just like she does, and it’s in that moment I know I have to escape this audience, more importantly, I have to escape her.
In a spasm, my sweaty palm hits the stop button as I stumble to my feet, and in a blur, I somehow make it to the front of the bus, passing the many hushed whispers of the other passengers. Moving in motion with the bus as the driver speeds down the road, I focus on the outside world, only for the rattling of my vision, which could be compared to the shaky footage of a home movie, churn my stomach. Finally, we come to a sudden stop, made clear when the shrieking brakes tear through my head, throwing me into the ticket machine. Murmuring to himself, the less than impressed driver opens the doors, letting a rush of fresh cool air in, pushing away the stagnant warmth aura that surrounds my body.
Unsure of the direction in which I am going, I continue to walk onward as the movement seems to dull my pain slightly. A welcomed gust of wind then follows as the bus speeds by, and even though it’s accompanied by exhaust fumes, I relish in the cooling air, if only for a brief moment.
Houses line both sides of the residential road I’ve taken, choosing to bypass the business of the main road, each one being similar to the last, with only the slightest of differences depending on the owner that reside within. Focusing on each one, I decide to work out what kind of person lives behind the door, distracting my mind further.
Pink door, pink window frames, pink curtains and a pink car sat on the drive – Barbie Wannabe.
A well-kept garden with hundreds of gnomes swamping the lawn, with barely any green showing through and a bird bath centred within the mess – Hoarder.
Children’s toys spread across the garden, bikes resting up against the wall and a relatively new soft top sports car sat on the drive – Dad having a midlife crisis.
If I could, I would’ve laughed to myself, but it’s a sound I don’t think I can muster, so I continue on moving from one house to the next.
The road ends, and with it I feel the pain begin to ease, which in turn takes away some of the fogginess from my mind, allowing me to take note of where I am long enough to figure out the best route home. I have a vague idea, probably no more than a twenty-minute walk, that’s if I’m correct in thinking I’m just outside the town centre. Struck by images of a chaotic crowd, my heart instantly begins to race, hurrying my pace. Will I ever be able to face that place again?
I’m sure dreams aren’t meant to affect people in their waking lives, a luxury normal people must have. How great it must be without fear of an evil version of one’s self, and never having to deal with such impossible thoughts. As a child, bedtime was an impending horror for me. I’d watch the clock tick ever closer to lights out. That’s when I’d be pulled into the world that wasn’t real, the world no one else ever got to see; alone and afraid.
Suddenly my thoughts are interrupted by the sound of loud footsteps echoing behind me through the quiet street, matching my pace, but with a bigger stride as they seem to be gaining. Feeling uneasy by the presence of other, I pick up the speed and debate with myself whether I should look behind or choose a different road and see if they follow. I pick the latter, turning into the next road that branches off; it’s smaller than the previous one, a street wide enough for only one lane of traffic and no parking. But still the footsteps follow, much louder than before as the gap closes between us.
Having no choice I no choice, I struggle a turn to face the pursuer. My stomach is hit first, twisting into knots before my eyes have a chance to fall upon her. The dark haired girl has followed me, casually walking closely behind, and completely unfazed that I’ve caught her. “Do not fear me,” she declares in a light airy voice. “I know what you’re going through, that you feel this connection between us. Please let me explain what is happening to you.”
I wish I could say I didn’t fear her, that I waited and heard her out, but at the sound of her voice, I was off, powering down the road as she follows behind me. “Please Mitchell Harper,” she calls out as I put some distance between us. “There is no time, you have to trust me.”
Her words echo those spoken by TJ, only he forewarned me to trust no one and to think for myself. So I continue on, pushing every thought of her away as I drag my heavy feet along the pavement. Chancing another look, my head spins round to find her gracefully running in an attempt to catch up, almost as if she’s gliding.
Turning another corner, I take the brief moment out of sight to regain my breath and slow my pace, being unable to keep it up under the heat my body is already pumping out. Knowing I won’t have a second wind, I stop in the middle of the pavement, exhausted, awaiting her presence. Only she doesn’t come. Minutes pass and still nothing. Had I imaged it all again? Is this girl even real? Stunned, I find myself searching the long stretch of road we’d once both travelled, purely so I can tell myself I’m not going crazy, but it’s empty.
It not long before my house comes into view, which I’m grateful for as the sky has opened up to a full downpour, drenching me head to toe. Hurling myself against the front door, I dislodge the collected water from a ledge above onto myself, at least a good bucket full, as I fumble through my bag to find my key. But to my surprise the door is already open, meaning someone else must be home.
Leaving a trail of water in my wake, I shake my body like a dog, freeing myself of any excess water, and put my hat and coat on the radiator to dry. Cheeks flushed and with hair sticking to my face, I pass the reflection of a drowned rat and begin laughing to myself. If only I wasn’t crazy, I’d have been able to stay on the bus, avoiding this typical English weather.
Change of clothes and semi-dry hair, I return to the kitchen to make something to eat. This is the first time in a while I’ve actually felt hungry, and I welcome the idea of food. Hearing a loud crash before I have a chance to reach into the cupboard, one strong enough to send vibrations through the ceiling, I run to the base of the stairs. “Matthew!?” I call out.
But there’s no answer.
I try again. “Matthew is that you!?”
Suddenly, a second crash sounds, this time, followed by a loud cry for help, and before my brain can process what’s happening, I’m already racing up the stairs, missing steps in my haste. With his bedroom door slightly ajar, I power towards it and burst through, letting it swing on the hinges as it slams into the wall. To my horror I find Matthew suspended in mid-air, his arms pulled back and spine arched, exposing his chest to the ceiling.
“Matthew!” I cry.
But he’s unresponsive.
My brother, the muscle-bound rugby player, centred between the ground and ceiling, as if by wires, rotating his unconscious body gently. Can this be another one of my dream, a waking hallucination of sorts, bleeding into reality? A fret only made more real when I catch sight of his eyes; they’re pure white, matching those of TJ’s and the other me.
Who or what could have done this? For I can see a struggle has taken place here. Everything that is not fixed down has either been pushed or thrown away from the circle Matthew occupies. Even his bed, which is normally centred in the room, is at an angle, having been moved with such force it’s dented the wall.
“Matthew!” I cry. But he doesn’t move, not even the slightest twitch can be seen at the sound of my voice.
Standing back helpless, I wonder what Matthew would do had he come across this situation. I know for sure he’d have figured it all out by now, or at least tried to do something. And before I can even think, I feel a quick burst of energy rush to my legs, propelling me towards him. Arms out, I’m just about to make contact when I feel a pulsating sensation irradiate from his skin, resulting in a blinding light exploding right before my eyes, sending my limp body crashing through the door and back out into the hallway.
Dazed, I lay staring up at the ceiling, as I do after waking from most night terrors, only this time I’ve not awoken in my bed, this time, I remain in the nightmare. If only I could tag someone else in, let them take over and save the day, but the only person I can think of is in that room, suspended in mid-air. “Keep it together Mitchell,” I mumble.
One. Two. Three. Each breath lifts me further back to my feet, and like walking the hallways of a funfair attraction, I slowly make my way back towards the buckled door, using the walls to steadily myself. Only to be stopped in my tracks by a shimmering light that shines through the cracks, causing pain to my already delicate head by the sheer brightness it expels.
Now would be the time to run, to dive under my duvet in a hope it’ll all work out for the best, but I already know I wouldn’t or couldn’t do that to Matthew. He needs me, and I’m his only hope.
Now spinning at a much faster speed, Matthew, lit up like a lighthouse, turns as if he’s caught in an invisible vortex. Nothing more than an animal trapped by yellow and white lights that swirl around his caged body, battling each other in waves that crackle when they meet and send out sparks, mimicking that of a firework. And as if it’s aware of my presence, the lights begin to work together, congregating toward me in a mix that turns his body into a glimmering gold, forcing me back against the wall by an unseen barrier. “Matthew!” I cry, for his body to respond in a quick convulsion, like on some level he heard me. “Matthew!?” I call again.
Now thrashing in the air, fitting within the glowing cyclone he’s created, Matthew’s body begins to send out bolts of light, small bullets that explode on touch sending out a small shockwave throughout his room. Missing me by inches, I dive under the overturned desk narrowly avoiding a lamp that was thrown my way in the chaos, shattering into pieces as it slams against the wall.
“Matthew, listen to me! You have to stop this!”
But my pleas go unheard as he continues to rotate, only with much more power than before, generating a windstorm that lifts anything that’s not tied down, including myself, from the ground, pinning it to the wall or ceiling above. Even an attempt to move would be pointless under the crushing force, leaving me to watch helplessly as Matthew becomes a golden ball of light, mirroring the sun itself, before shattering into pieces that fire out in all directions.
I awake to a loud ringing resounding in my ears, disorientated, but free to move again on Matthew’s bedroom floor. The room itself is a tip, everything that was once in the air, lifted by an invisible force is now scattered across the ground, either damaged or broken. And amidst the destruction sits a hunched, but conscious Matthew. “What… what happen?” he asks, scanning the room.
“You don’t remember?” I ask, lifting my bruised body.
His eyes dart from left to right, taking in every inch of the mess before him. “This was me?”
“Your voice,” he says like he’s just had an idea. “I could hear it. I knew you were there, but I couldn’t move or even make a sound.”
I crawl towards him, wincing in pain with each movement I make. “It’s over now,” I assure. “Whatever that was, it’s done. Finished.”
Pulling his bed back toward the centre, Matthew leans back and stretches into the mattress. “I knew something was wrong,” he says, looking up to the ceiling. “For weeks now I haven’t felt myself,” – lifting his head, he looks directly at me – “but I thought it was nothing serious, maybe just the flu, ya know?”
His words hit me like a punch to the gut, spoken as if they were to come from my own mouth.
“Today it peaked,” he adds. “I felt so ill; tired and sick. It was unbearable to the point I had to come home. And you know I’m not one to fuss over a simple illness, it’s just not my style.”
With my stomach in knots, I rush to the window for some air, panting as I desperately grasp the handle to open it, only to be met by a shadowed figure stood in our garden staring up at me. Leaping back, I wrap the curtain around myself to hide. “What are you doing?” asks Matthew.
“Outside,” I gasp. “Someone’s out there!”
Joining me by the window, Matthew leans his head out. “Where?” he asks.
“By the garden gate!” I shoot back, trying to subdue my frantic mind. Could this be the culprit causing all this? My dreams, my hallucinations and now whatever’s happening to Matthew. If only I’d listened to the dark haired girl – that’s if she even exists.
“There’s no one there Mitchell.”
“What!?” I grunt, pushing him out the way to get a better look. He’s right. The garden is empty, aside from the swing set. “But… I saw someone.” I can see them now, the outline of a person stood in our garden staring up at the window, someone I’ve never seen before. It’s engrained in my memory, yet once again I cannot be sure if my mind is being truthful. It’s ironic really, for I can truly say my mind has a ‘mind of its own.’
“Chill out,” he urges, returning to the bed. “It was probably just some homeless guy.”
“You’re right,” I reply, still grasping the curtain tightly. “Just some random.”
“Right. Now back to the real problem here.” Groans Matthew, throwing his hands out as if to display a prize on a game show. “What mum’s gonna say when she sees this place!”
Helping push the computer desk back to its original location, I can’t help shake this terrible feeling that someone is watching us, the same someone that knows or is the cause of our problems. Suddenly there’s a crash, and as I leap around I find Matthew stood before me with a pile of books at his feet. “Can’t you be a bit more careful?” I fume.
But he doesn’t answer. Instead, his eyes talk for him, he’s scared.
“What!?” I frantically ask.
“You’re glowing. Mitchell! You’re glowing!” he cries.
Pulsating with an orange hue, I stumble back, brushing my arms in a hopeless attempt to rid my skin of this unnatural burnt effect.
With an overwhelming heat now radiating from the orange waves, I slam into the computer desk, using it as a support. Upon me in seconds, Matthew grabs hold of my arm, only to recoil and yell out in pain. “You burnt me!”
Smoke now raising from my hands, and nostrils hit with the scent of smouldering wood, I step back from the desk, leaving two blackened prints in my wake. A dream! I tell myself over and over in my head. Surely this has to be one. One. Two. Three. But I remain within his room. I breathe again. One. Two. Three. Only for the last of my hopes to be dash… this is real. All of it.
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Everyday life is a mundane blur, trekking Mitchell Harper from one boring day to the next; a blessing for this introverted teenager. Overcome by a crippling anxiety, Mitchell is forced to go about his business unnoticed; hidden beneath the radar, knowing adventure and excitement only bring drama, the likes his fragile mind cannot take. But this is not to last, as his life is thrown into turmoil when he, along with his twin brother Matthew, discover that half their heritage is not of this world. With Matthew acquiring the supernatural gifts of the Celestials – an ancient race of strong, powerful beings – and Mitchell with those of the Daemons – a rival race imbued with unmatched intelligence – these 'impossible twins' find themselves caught up in a secret that has been living alongside us since the beginning of time, forcing them into a fate they cannot run from. With time ticking away, pushing them ever closer to the visions Mitchell has foreseen, the twins must team up with their fellow Half-Breeds in order to stop an upcoming threat – Mitchell's worst nightmare... himself. Diving into the supernatural, yet keeping itself with a sense of normality, Half-Breed tells a tale of Angels vs. Demons in a fresh new way, exploring the true meaning of being good… and evil.