This is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents mentioned are purely from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be taken as real. Any resemblance to actual persons is purely coincidental.
©2014 by Rose Golden
Cover and Artwork are also by the author.
This Edition of Night Terrors is a collection of all four books in the series. Including: Hallways & Mirrors, Eye of The Living Shadow, Garden of Limbo, and Before the Dawn.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission of the author.
A thin gasp escaped my lips as I woke again. The same dream, the same figures, it was all the same. I watched them exit and fade away in the threshold of my empty doorway, sighing the breath I didn’t realize I had been holding since my eyes had opened. Dr. Richards had prescribed another drug for my escalating attacks two weeks ago. It was suppose to keep me from having dreams. Yeah…right.
I stared at the various bottles of medication on my nightstand, chuckling sourly at a memory. Specifically one from my sessions of therapy. “No dreams huh?”
More often than not the medications I had been taking the past three months added to my condition rather than be a solution to it. Depacote, Topamax, and now Tofranil all had the side effects of drowsiness. Many nights I would go to sleep in fear, not of dreaming, but of not being able to wake up. I stared at the bottles until they blurred out of focus, seeming to disappear entirely as my mind wandered.
When I was little, hell, a year ago; I use to love to dream. The things the mind was capable of use to leave me in awe, I could control my own world, my own utopia, my own escape. But that was before…
My vision seemed to come back to me as I caught a dark object moving out of the corner of my eye. A moment later, I screamed. “Kitra!” a high soprano voice exclaimed and my body was enveloped by an embrace. Instinctively I fought to get lose as the voice continued on. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you! It’s just me. Kitra! Look at me!”
I felt my face being forced up by pale slender hands; I fought that too. Finally I brought myself to look up. My eyes met a pair of gray ones, full of concern. My body all but went still apart from my hyperventilating. Immediately I focused on Margaret, trying to control my breathing for her sake. I didn’t want to give my best friend’s Grandmother a heart attack. It was her shadow…just a shadow. Her slender hands moved from under my chin up to cup my cheeks. “I’m sorry.” She repeated stroking her thumb across my cheek. “Are you okay?” I nodded a response, unsure if I could even speak with stability.
She looked at me for a moment longer then released my face. “Maybe you should stay home today” she suggested gently. When I didn’t answer she went on. “I could call the school and say you weren’t feeling well.” If she did, it wouldn’t be far from the truth. “Thanks, but I should go, I’m far behind as it is.” She looked towards the door then to the window as if looking for an excuse to keep me here. I started thinking up nice ways to explain to her why I had to go, as a line appeared in her already wrinkled brow. “Well, let me at least buy you briefest. Anything you’re up for. Don’t worry about the price.” Her lips thinned as an apologetic smile stretched across her face. My jaw dropped in shock. Guilty! She felt Guilty for scaring me!
“Oh! Um thanks but no… I’m actually not hungry.” I didn’t want her to feel guilty, to feel that she owed me something. After my parents died, she took me as if I were her own granddaughter. If anything, I owed her. I’m the one who should feel guilty. “Kitra, honey, you can’t keep skipping meals, your too thin as it is. Keep it up and you’ll be no more than a sack of bones!” She said half teasingly. I chuckled whipping the beads of sweat from my forehead with the back of my hand shifting my body to the right side of my bed. Focusing my gaze to the window, the light from it drifted in, and touched my toes.
I could feel her eyes watching me as she spoke. “Well if you won’t let me buy you breakfast, I want you to at least eat something before you go.” Her tone was more suggestive that a command of a parental authority. Which made it hard for me to hurt her feelings, like always. If I ever did, she wouldn’t say anything, but I could always tell. There would always be a subtle way she would; for lack of a better word, mope around. She reminded me so much of my own Grandmother before she passed on. “Alright, I will” I amended.
I felt Grandmother Margaret’s weight lift as she stood up. She started to walk into the next room across the hall to wake up her real granddaughter, but I didn’t look her way. Instead I found my eyes lifting to the window again. It appeared, for at least a while, it was going to be another sunny day in hell.
As I finally clamored to my feet to prepare myself for the day ahead, I couldn’t push the thought of my frightened scream out of my mind. It reminded me too much of that night. The scream, from that night.
The reflection in my full length, free standing mirror portrayed a skinny girl with a frightful look I just couldn’t shake. The fright in my own eyes I couldn’t be blamed for, however the general skinniness I guess, I was partially at fault. Ever since I had been taking those drugs I hadn’t had much of an appetite. At the height of 5’3, I had always been pretty thin. Only six months ago I weighed 120, now I weighed 110 maybe 115.
Pulling my green sweatshirt over head, my hands and eyes quickly went to work trying to cover up the purpling bruises around my neck. I was on enough drugs; the last thing I needed was to have anyone thinking I was trying to kill myself. I know what people would think if I told them about how those marks so livid in color, like imprints of large hands had been wrapped around my throat, had gotten there. The thought alone was crazy. I pulled my school clothes on, wrapping a scarf around my neck as a safety precaution, running my hands through my hair until it fell around in a natural part. Maybe I was crazy.
“Hey you!” Someone shouted from the top of the stairway. “Grams had to take the car with her just now. But she said she would pick us up after school.” Even Holly’s voice seemed gentle this morning. Another guilty one? When does it end? “Alright, um…” I paused slinging my backpack over my right shoulder, the faces staring me down. “Go on down stairs, I’ll be right down.” It took a moment as she tried peering down the hall to see my face. Then changing her mind, I heard her footsteps half way down the hall, slowly dissipate to my hearing as she went down stairs.
The Faces were convincingly chilling as they stared on; their smiles filling me with ironic doubt. I walked out my door. On my dresser the picture of my parents and me from my 16th birthday party lay undisturbed.
The walk to school was quite, and felt alien. Holly and I use to walk to school together all the time, our houses only a couple of blocks apart. Now instead of waiting for Holly to come down the street, we left at the same time. Instead of giggling at our perverse sense of humor for the sake of our being bored, we paced ourselves in silence. Our friendship had changed a lot. Or maybe it was just me. I didn’t use to be this boring, with nothing to say. I use to allow myself to be happy, to have fun.
My feet came to a stop, holding my ground. ‘Happy thoughts Kitra’ I told myself as I looked up. Holly stood a couple of strides ahead of me looking worried; her eyes exchanging back and forth to her right, then to me. As I looked to my right I realized she was worried, not that I had stopped, but that I would look where my eyes took me. “Kitra?” her voice was soft, like it was underwater. Maybe my ears were going funny. My vision was clear though, I stood in front of a white picket fence with a mailbox that read 4452 East Madison Street. The windows all over the house had been knocked out with rocks, the walls tagged, and the door kicked in, hanging on its hinges. Vandalizing the place was one thing, this time someone had gone too far. Someone had broken into my house!
I swung myself forward, through the gate before I could help myself, unable to stop until I was nearly a foot in front of the front door. I wanted so badly to go in. But it was like there was a slate of bullet proof glass in front of me, too thick to budge. What kinds of people do this!? I felt my vision go red with rage then I heard it. Bang!
I looked to my best friend who was standing right behind me now as footsteps followed. As of sensing my track of thought, her voice was there. “Kitra, no! Let’s just go, we’ll call the police!” She pleaded taking out her phone. But I was already picking up a couple of decent sized stones, ready to kill whoever was inside, destroying my house. The glass had all but disappeared, allowing me to pursue my ambition. Through the door way, holding my finger to my lips to silence Holly as she continued her pleas in near silent whispers, I entered the house.
I peered my way into the kitchen when I heard glass shatter above my head, then voices. They were upstairs. “Be careful!” A female voice scolded. There was more than person. A male voice chuckled. “Why? It looks like they already beat us here.” I tiptoed my way up the stairs.
“We’re not here to ran-sack the place!” The female voice was hostile, as if this was her home, and she sought to leave it in one piece. The male sighed. “I don’t know what you’re getting yourself bent out of shape for, it looks like someone hasn’t lived here in months. And if your target had lived here, look no further than the blood on the walls and floor.”
My feet froze midway up the stairs. ‘Target!?’ I thought then my blood ran cold in realization; ‘My parents’.
The female scoffed. “You think I came here knowing nothing? I checked the police report pecker-head. The blood doesn’t belong to our target. It belongs to her parents.” The rocks in my hands fell.
“What was that?” The female cautioned. “Don’t look at me! I didn’t touch sh—“Shhh!” She hissed.
“Kitra? Please come out of there!” Holly hissed insistently into the house from the doorway. There was another bang, and I found myself running. This one different from the first. Instead of something dropping, it sounded more like a gunshot. “Someone’s down stairs, hurry!” The female hissed. I ran for the door shouting at Holly to run with me, instead she stood still. I somehow managed to get myself behind an oak tree across the street right before I heard her scream. I stifled my own as I pant in panic listening to another loud bang. ‘This can’t be happening! Not to Holly! Dear god, please!’
After moments of surreal silence I brought myself to peer from behind the tree. “Holly?” I mouthed out in a silent whisper, tears running down my face, my eyes scanning where I last saw her. I was expecting to find her dead on the porch of my house. But I didn’t. The man and woman were gone, and so was she.
The blue jean jacket I had put on that morning suddenly felt really thin, the cold bit at my skin. A late winter storm front was beginning to move in; the temperature had been forecasted to drop. Having only planned on going to school and coming home, I hadn’t been prepared for this.
I had however become acutely aware of how cold it had actually gotten when I got into the police car and rode over to the station, not my favorite place in the world. Numbly I remembered calling the police, hiding behind the tall oak until they arrived. It had been the same officer who had been on duty the night my parents were murdered who picked me up. Officer Kale eyes had widened, his face seemed to fill with despair. He remembered me too.
The police were trying to reach Grandmother Margaret to notify her of what had happened while I waited in the interview room and inevitably, I started to think about the last time I was here.
My parents had been high school sweethearts, the kind of relationship everyone dreams of having. The romantic couple, who got married on Valentine’s Day, as my Grandmother would say, then called them love crazed fools. After all, only fools would get married at my age right? Grams hadn’t expected them to stick to it. A mere decade down the line, they were celebrating their tenth anniversary and mom was pregnant with me. They had finished high school, went to college, became successful, and bought a house, all before deciding to have children.
For their twenty-sixth anniversary, I wanted to go all out for them. I just got my first pay check, and I wanted to thank them for the wonderful surprise birthday bash they threw for me. The morning of I asked if it was alright if I spent the night at Holly’s. My mother didn’t put up any arguments. It that made me sense that she got my drift. She realized what I was doing, she knew me to well.
They stood in the doorway all dressed up like they were ready for their second prom and I couldn’t help but smile. “Now, we’ll be back around midnight.” My father said, completely unaware of the arrangement I had confirmed with my mother. “Keep the doors locked and call if you have any problems.”
I shook my head and rolled my eyes. “Yeah, yeah, now get out of here.”
My parents chuckled. “Yeah yeah…” My mother mimicked in a deep voice. “Get out of here so I can invite the boys over.” My dad’s smile turned into a grimace. he cleared his throat. “Boys?” He questioned through clenched teeth.
My mother and I erupted with laughter. All you had to do to make his roller coaster come to a screeching halt was put the ‘B’ word in front of it.
They walked down the driveway to the car, my mother taking my father’s arm. At the last moment they turned and waved. I returned the gesture with a smile. That was the last time I would see them alive.
I set up the house with as many decorations as I could before I left for Holly’s. That night as my best friend and I gave each other manicures and pedicures, I pictured their entire evening. Most people would be grossed out thinking of their parent’s anniversary, but I was just happy that they were happy. Most couples didn’t last the first five years of marriage. Since my best friend’s parents went missing when she was five I didn’t want to make her sad by talking more about my parent’s big night, so I just kept these thoughts to myself.
Their evening would be perfect, absolutely and completely perfect. First a romantic dinner, then a romantic comedy at the theater, and finally they would come home and see my gifts to them. The following afternoon, I went home.
Reaching around my neck, I pulled off the keychain I had worn to Holly’s and unlocked the door. It was almost dinner time and I was starting to get hungry. Grandmother Margaret offered to buy me something before dropping me off, but in my drowsy state, I politely refused.
I shut the door behind me. “Mom?” I called out, walking into the kitchen then the living room. “Dad?”
Standing at the base of the stairs I pursed my lips, my backpack dropping down to my fore-arm. They must have turned in early. I scoffed. ‘And they worry I might grow into pulling all nighters.’ I thought sourly heading upstairs.
Shaking my head I went into my room, slinging my backpack onto my bed. I wasn’t use to the house being this quite; they never turned in this early. Oh well, I would be the responsible adult they were trying to model me into and wake them up for dinner. My stomach growled loudly, causing me to chuckle. But first, a sandwich.
With a full stomach, I treaded my way up the stairs again. Instead of turning into the left hallway I turned to the right. First I would wake them up, and then go to bed myself. One nightmare had been my limit for the night so I had stayed up most of the night watching re-runs of the three stooges when Holly was still passed out. I had hopes that since I was going to be staying the night at Holly’s I might actually have a night without having the attacks. Unfortunately, the followed me where ever I went.
I closed my eyes. With a yawn I entered their room, a strong scent of smoke and something else stinging my nose. Opening my eyes I saw the maroon curtains had been pulled too and it was hard to make out details in the dark. Even still I could make out my dad’s figure lying in bed. Beside him, the bed was empty. I looked vaguely to the left side of the room, towards the door there. Mom must have already woken up, the bathroom door was closed. I edged my way towards the bathroom door until I was in knocking range, whispering as I did so, “Mom? Can I come in?”
She didn’t answer. My paranoia took off with me as I thought of all the things that could go wrong, for a reason she wouldn’t answer me. She was in there, wasn’t she?
“Mom?” I said louder. The silence stunned me. She could have slipped in some water, fell, or drowned. An unnatural chill came over me causing me to shiver. I couldn’t torment myself with ridiculous thoughts anymore; I had to check on her. “Hey mom, I’m coming in, okay?”
I looked down as I entered, and that was enough to tell me she wasn’t in there. The light being off, I turned it on to reassure myself and turned around towards the bedroom. It didn’t smell like smoke or that other foul scent in the bathroom. Looking towards the nightstand in the dim light I could see a champagne bottle, wax drippings along its front. I turned off the bathroom light, heading towards the window by the nightstand.
They must have forgotten to put out the candles before they hit the sack. That was rather stupid. They could have burned the house down. I pushed back the curtains to either side of the window, and instantly regretted it as with a whoosh, the very last steams of the days sun flooded the room. The Smell of smoke was strongest here, fogging up the room. The other lingering scent made me a little queasy. I knelled at the mess beside the bed.
The nightstand had been burned, papers on the stand caught fire, and the candles had burned down to their base. The metal part of the wick was all that remained aside from the drippings. How could they sleep through that? The smell alone would have woken even the heaviest sleeper up.
My eyes went to the side of the nightstand, where my father’s arm lay. There were dark spots on his hand, did he burn himself? Soot maybe? Did they really get that drunk that he couldn’t feel his own flesh singeing? My mouth fell open. With a gasp, I dropped his hand as soon as I had lifted it. Cold, it was freezing. I looked up and saw a pillow over his face, his other arm thrown over it, as if shielding his eyes from the change in light. I scoffed and their parental authority; them having the nerve to pull something like this. “Come on dad.” I started reaching for the pillow, and then stopped midway. Something was telling me not to move the pillow…something was.
I stood up suddenly afraid. I pulled back the cover a little, seeing something I didn’t want to. There was a wide crimson spot on dad’s shirt. ‘Don’t move the pillow….you don’t want to see…’ With a shaking hand, I slung the pillow to the side of the bed where as it fell, I screamed.
I reeled back, and reeled back, unable to control myself. “Mom!” I screamed hysterically. ‘No! I didn’t see it! I didn’t! This isn’t real, it’s another nightmare! This isn’t real!’
“Mom! Call the police! Dad…” I sobbed out, continuing in a whisper. “Dad’s…dead.” The image wouldn’t fade as I closed my eyes. It was in front of me, no matter where I looked, or what I did. My father’s eyes rolled back into their sockets, blood leaking from them, both nostrils, and mouth, down his throat to his shirt. ‘Not burn marks!’ I thought again of the dark spots on his hand. They weren’t just on his hand, but all over his body and face; where by my assumption, his blood had coagulated.
My sobbing paused as I called out one final time “Mom! Where are you!” Then I caught myself. ‘Mom…mom you where suppose to be with dad’. I took my phone out, dialing the police, my sobbing resuming in panic. “911, what is your emergency?” The male operator said. “I need an ambulance and the police at 4452 East Madison Street; I just found my… father’s body.” My voice broke at the end. “Okay, help is on the way, what is your name?”
“Kitra.” I said to the man.
“Okay Kitra, are you alone?” His voice gentle but urgent.
I nodded mechanically “I—I don’t know, my Mom was supposed to… to be here with Dad but…” I gasped in another sob. “I can’t find her.” Backing up into my parent’s wardrobe closet, I cried out. I jumped back, watching it lean forward and crash back into the wall. My heart pounding ever faster, the next thing I saw caused me to drop the phone. Drip… drip…drip. Those red droplets leaking from inside of the wardrobe…they were…
“God no!” I pleaded as I leaned into doors. “Not Mom…please not you Mom.” I swung open the door, falling backwards as I screamed in silence, breath being knocked from my lungs. I could hear the sirens coming up the road. They were too late. I grasped the carpeting on the floor, pulling myself little by little, until I was against a wall and could go no further. Her face! The eyes, mouth, all of it was just like my fathers.
Below the front door opened. I put my hands to my mouth and nose, as if trying to escape the smell of corpses and smoke; as if it were possible. It was always going to be with me now. Always. The way they smelled; my parents.
I thought I had felt more fear than my heart could take, that surely I would fall over dead any second. Still, as the police called for me from the top of the staircase, the steady accelerated thud in my chest didn’t cease. “Here!” I shouted in a lifeless voice. This wasn’t a nightmare. I wasn’t going to wake up and find that some strange feeling of relief. This was reality and I’m—“I’m here.” I rasped.
A man with dark hair and dark skin had escorted me out of the house. I hadn’t heard a word he had spoken though I was sure he was trying to comfort me, although my tears had stopped now. I couldn’t feel anything enough to bring the tears. It was like I had entered another world, inside of my head, one that didn’t hurt so much. One where, thoughts and emotions seemed irrelevant, the only word that could be used to describe this state; shock. The numbness felt good, but I felt it slipping, like elastic being stretched too far, threatening to snap back. I heard the man’s voice and realized I was in a car now. “Kitra, I’m officer Kale, is there someone we can call?”
Call? No, I didn’t want to think of phone calls, I wanted to be left alone, to be at peace. Inside my head, I could be happy; inside I could have another chance.
Within my mind, I begin to feel something; the feeling grew as I tugged the numbness closer to me. My world evolved into a world of color and I could see a hallway with multiple rooms…
The feeling was comforting, different from numb, but it was still nice. I walked down the hallway casually, looking at the doors as I passed them by, until one of them rattled. I stopped, curious as to who was behind the door.
my hand stretch out towards the doorknob, when the comfort faded. The doorknob turned from the other side; someone was about to come out. I backed up into the hallway, the way I had come from.
The door opened, and a male figure with black hair and clothes stepped forward. It was silent here, for the exception of my increased breath. The man didn’t lift his head, his hair covering his face. “Who…who are you?”
I looked down to his hands, seeing that they weren’t empty. He gripped a sword in his right hand, the tip of the blade dripping with something that looked like blood as it touched the floor. I found myself backing up again. “How did you get in here?” I snarled in a confused tone.
“You can’t go back; they’ll be looking for you.” The sound of his voice was low and somehow familiar. But what did he mean? “Who will be looking for me?”
“Don’t ever go back to that house again.” His tone was harsh but also pleading. Suddenly I remembered the dark figures, his sword…he had one just like theirs. “The figures and the shadows…your one of them…” I backed into the wall, suddenly horrified. He looked up to me; a gasp froze in my throat. The crimson irises that stared back at me were wide. “How do you know about the shadows?” He stepped forwards, limping. I realized then he had been injured, the wide stain almost invisible of the top his leg, was blood. A loud bang suddenly occurred as all the doors began to slam inward and open. His eyes narrowed down the hall, picking up his sword defensively. “Go…” He whispered looking back at me. His sudden contradiction to what he had said made me confused and wanting to know more. If he knew why I had been having these all too real nightmares, I needed to know. “You just said I can’t go back! And now you—“Just jump into the portal behind you! There’s no time! You’ll have a better chance out the there than in here.” He rasped looking at me with eyes that made me want to obey with the knowledge that it gave. This man, who I had barely known for less than five minutes, was trying to protect me. Though my feet didn’t want to budge, I turned around to do as he told me. This huge barrier of light was in front of me, this thing he had called a portal. I looked back to find we weren’t alone anymore, the shadows were filing in. “You have got to be kidding me…” I broke off as he pulled me forwards, our faces only inches apart. “Trust me, and don’t ever go back to that house, they will find you there.”
I could only gasp as he pushed me backwards, and I fell. The light filled my vision and the man with the crimson eyes faded from my view. CLANK!
I shot upwards to find I was lying down on a brown couch. White walls surrounded me, along with household appliances. On the side of the room the couch was facing there were countertops with a coffee maker, and a microwave, with cupboards above them. Was I in someone kitchen?
“Damn spoon.” Someone rattled out in the doorway next to me. I looked over my shoulder to see a man with dark hair and skin with a coffee mug in his hand, squatting down to retrieve his spoon had dropped. “Sorry that I woke you.” He paused going over to the counter, sitting down the mug and spoon. His face…I knew him…oh god.
“Officer Kale?” I inquired feeling a bit nauseous. “You remember my name?” His voice was surprised. I nodded putting my hand to my mouth. It happened, it really happened. My parents were dead. “Do you know where you are?” I shook my head. My eyes closed as I fought the nausea, gulping back vomit. “You’re at the police station, in the staff lounge.” He explained. Well, that explained the kitchen ware. My eyes opened.
“I realize this is hard, but if you could talk about what happened… the Detectives just arrived outside.” Biting my lip I nodded. “Alright, I’ll show the Detectives to a room and then I’ll be back for you, don’t worry…your safe here.” He added as left the room.
On my way to push my hair back from my face, I noticed my forehead was wet; a wet rag sitting in my lap from where I had sat up so abruptly. I had passed out, for the first time in my life, I had passed out. And what was up with that dream I had about that guy? My thoughts were too muddled to make sense out of any of it. My parents had just been murdered, I might be next, and here I am thinking about a guy. Tears welled up again, and spilled over my cheeks.
“We have to update everyone, this changes everything.” I paused briefly as I began to walk. “There’s no time to waste.”
The enemy had never found a target before us, until now. And even more importantly, the enemy now knew that our numbers had been growing.
“No arguments there.” he said, walking a few strides faster than me just to piss me off. We needed to get these borrowed bodies back to where we got them from, but there was no time. “Close enough.”
Kaw didn’t argue or pretend to miss the urgency in my voice, he followed. ‘For once that bird-brain followed orders.’ I thought ‘Good.’
Within the swirling vortex I looked down as the bodies fell, they would wake up with a nasty headache. Oh well, they had been drinking, they wouldn’t know what hit them. The electric current hit my body with a shotgun like bang. As my feet touched down I felt genuinely lucky that this time it hadn’t been my own body I used.
The suppression after the bang faded, and as my hearing came back I sensed that we weren’t alone. ‘Trouble’ I thought reaching for my blade; Emily. No one was in sight…not even Kaw. ‘Damn, that good for nothing, son of a b—“Hello?”
I jumped backwards in a swirling motion. Nothing. I knew the voice, but the person it belonged to was nowhere to be found. “I hope you don’t mind, but I decided to go ahead and warn the others. Why don’t you go try to find your target and get her back?”
I realized then the voice was in my head and Kaw had already entered the gate without me. “She’s our target and since when did I start taking orders from you!”
He didn’t reply. So much for following orders, and sticking together. The hostility I felt now wasn’t from the presence in my head, for it was fading the further Kaw got closer to the others. Maybe it was that I realizing that feather brain was right. It didn’t take two to deliver a message.
There was a lot to be done. For one, I needed to go back, to confirm the one they took was her. And if it was they couldn’t be allowed to awaken her. I sighed realizing I had spoken too soon. It looked like I was going to have to re-enter the one I had just left on the street.
The following months, the Detectives had come up with various, ridiculous, theories. One, to my ultimate embarrassment, made the news. “Two killed by husband’s spurned lover?” Anyone who knew my parents were shocked at the accusation, and knew better. But as for all the other idiots out there who believed anything the news reported, including kids at my school, either looked down on me, or felt sorry for me. And I hated it all.
An autopsy ruled out their death to be ‘Unnatural’, by an unknown weapon. From what I was told, which wasn’t much because of my fragile state of mind at the time, their hearts had imploded. The dark marks I had seen on dad’s arms, the bloody eyes, it wasn’t an image easily erased, and one I wasn’t likely to forget. Despite all their research, and so-called investigations, they never had so much as came up with a suspect. It went without saying, the person who killed my parents, was still running around.
The photo of the missing person stared at me as I took the piece of paper in my hand. The hues of gray seemed to change before my eyes as I heard her voice in my head, into a world of color. Her voice was whispering a plea…the same plea she had whispered within moments of her disappearance. “Please Kitra, let’s just go.” Then it changed to my worst fear, her voice all too real. “Why couldn’t you just leave and call the police. Now I’m dead, dead because of you.”
Suddenly I was reminded of the man I had dreamed of when I had passed out in the police car, and his warning; “Don’t ever go back to that house, they’ll find you there.” But I did go back, and his warning sang true. Worst of all the Holly inside of my head was probably right, she was probably dead. She had paid for price for my ignorance.
As Grandmother Margaret entered the room she looked at me. Instantly I saw an older version of Holly. Same pale gray eyes, fair skin, and straight blonde hair. But the thought that she may never be able to grow old, because of me, put a very large lump in my throat.
I told the Detectives I didn’t want to tell them what happened until Grandmother Margaret had arrived. I didn’t want to have to repeat myself; it was going to be hard enough to say once.
She took a seat next to me and I catalogued her face. Her eyes were red and puffy, like mine, she had been crying too. She was scared, just like me. But it was just the start of her fear, her reaction was unknowable by me, how she would react to the real fear, that lay within the story I was about to tell her.
“Grandmother Margaret…” I looked away from her then to the Detectives who sat across from us. “I went back to my house. Someone was there…looking from me. I heard them say they came looking for me when my parents were home that night on their anniversary, but when they saw I wasn’t there…” My voice drifted. “Holly wanted to call the police.” I shook my head, bringing my hand to cover my mouth; hating myself for not listening to her.
I started to cry, looking back and forth to her and the Detectives. “They thought Holly was me… and they took her. This is all my fault. My parents are dead because of me. Now the same people who killed them have kidnapped her.” I paused staring into her eyes that were wet again. “I’m sorry Grandmother Margaret, I’m sorry”
By the time the full strength of the storm finally hit, it was around one in the morning, and Grandmother Margaret and I were on our way home. Heavy sleet and rain fell and crashed into the window as I looked outside to the rearview mirror, the cop car not too far behind. Every once and I while, I would glace her way, but she never looked back. Her eyes focused on the road, hands clenching the steering wheel. I hated this feeling of regret, that I was here and Holly wasn’t. I hated the fact that they were after me, not her, and she still paid the price. Grandmother Margaret never seemed the type of person who would hate anyone. People she disliked were even hard to come by, but I had given her reason enough to hate me. ‘I’m sorry.’ I repeated inside my head as if she could hear me. ‘I would swap places if I could.’
We had been home all of ten minutes, when the sleet and rain turned into snow, and began to blanket the lawn in white. I sat at the window seal, tired, but undeserving of sleep. Like I would get sleep anyway, the nightmares wouldn’t let me rest.
The police were monitoring the front door to insure no harm would come to me, whatever good that did. It wasn’t that I wasn’t thankful for their protection, more over; I thought that they all should be searching for Holly. Then again…maybe it was good that they were here for Grandmother Margaret’s sake. It kept her from killing me. Though it was only going to make it harder to pull off the plan I had just made.
I grabbed my backpack, packing a flashlight and whatever other supplies I thought I might need. The people who murdered my parents and took Holly were really after me right? It had been too late for my parents, and I’ll be damned if I let them hurt my best friend because of me.
The only thing that made sense in all this chaos was what I had thought on the way home. ‘If I could swap places, I would.’ And that’s exactly what I intended to do.
This was it. Maybe there was still a chance to get Holly back before anything bad happened. Maybe they had already realized they had abducted the wrong person, and come looking for me. If they had, they wouldn’t have to look far.
For almost eight years, I have watched over her. And now more than ever, it was difficult for me to keep my distance. Three months, it was two incredibly long months since I warned her about this house. It was extremely dangerous here for her. Ever since they discovered where she was being hidden, she was in danger of becoming one of them. And I wasn’t about to allow that to happen. That’s why I had fought I way—I glanced down at my leg. The wound the shadow had marked on me still hadn’t fully healed. I had risked everything to warn her. It took an enormous amount of energy to enter a mind of a person who hadn’t been awakened. You had to get passed their defense mechanism, which sometimes manifested in the shadow like creature I had confronted, and were dangerous if not known how to be dealt with. But I risked myself—still I could not fathom why. There was something about this girl. She had almost this aura about her, that was different. All I knew was that she needed to be protected. In the same instant I had entered her mind, she had blacked out, proving it had not only taken energy from me to get this warning across.
Something told me to come back here tonight. I stood upright from my crouched position on the roof to my full height. Earlier today I had come here to see if I could pick up any information on her from the people who kept raiding her old house, when she came walking down the street. ‘Don’t stop’. I had thought. She was running up to the house as the people inside shuffled things noisily below me. ‘She’s not going to listen to me.’ I thought frustrated. Focusing my energy to the doorway, I tried to block her way. Just when she appeared to be giving up, someone inside dropped something, and she broke through my shield. ‘Shit!’
I had come so close to attacking the people inside as they followed her. It turned out I didn’t have to. Someone entered through a portal with a bang and grabbed the girl that had been with her, allowing enough time for those people to see they had her and for the girl to scream, before they disappeared into the vortex. Both groups of people had gotten the wrong girl. Kitra had gotten very lucky today, and so had I.
The scent in the cold air suddenly changed and I winced. “Not again” I groaned in a whisper, crouching down. At the gate of the Victorian house, there she stood wearing a backpack, clutching at the straps. Did she honestly have a death wish? She was opening the gate. ‘Damn it.’ I thought. I didn’t want to get involved. The more I helped her face to face put me at risk to being discovered. I didn’t want to know either side to know I existed, or which side I was on. Not until I could find out more information. Something had told me to come back here tonight. Somehow I knew she would come back. With another groan I stood up, watching her enter the house, I stepped off the roof.
‘Don’t ever go back to that house again.’ I stood outside that very house I was warned to never enter again. The man’s voice echoed in my head, his piercing red eyes staring at me from my closed eyelids. Well I did, and right now, I’m about to go against the warning for the second time. But as scared as I was of what laid beyond the gate, I made myself take one step, then another, until I stood in the doorway. ‘This is it’.
The flashlight in my hand shook; it was cold, very cold. There was a light thump from above and then a light whoosh in the air. I took a step up the stairs, I had been right, someone probably had been watching the house all day, to see who came and went. The air suddenly went stale as I realized the whoosh had sounded like clothing blowing around in the wind. Mechanically, I went to take another step, but something pulled me back, an arm encircling my waist, a hand clasping over my mouth.
The scream froze in my throat, as I heard a whisper. “I told you never to come back here! I told you it wasn’t safe!”
‘The same voice, this man who grabbed me, he has the same voice as…’ It couldn’t be possible; my arms went from trying to get away, to my sides. As if sensing the tension leave from my body, he loosened his grip, and I turned around to face him.
Black hair and green eyes, this man was well over foot taller than me. He couldn’t be the man I met in the hallway, his eyes were green. ‘Contacts?’ I processed as I noticed he had the same face. ‘No, this isn’t possible…it was a nightmare…not real.’ Still the evidence stood before me.
His expression was angry. “You have to leave.” He said grabbing my hand and started to pull me to the door. With a gasp I yanked my hand away. “No!” I protested stubbornly. “They took Holly! I’m not leaving here without getting her back!”
His expression didn’t change. “If they want me, they’ll have me, just as long as she doesn’t get hurt because of me.”
He shook his head willfully. “She’s a sacrifice I am willing to make, you on the other hand, are not.” His tone was cold, intractable. It was enough to make a sharp breath escape my lips, my eyes blinking rapidly with disbelief. “What gives you the right to make these decisions!?” I shuttered pausing briefly a shiver escaping my façade to hold my ground. “Who the hell are you!? And why are you even here?”
“I’m someone you can trust, and if you want to live—you should listen to.” He stretched out an arm. “Please…” I almost slapped it away. The feeling in my stomach was completely inappropriate for the moment. ‘Traitor.’ I thought harshly. Instead I shook my head charging up the stairs; midway I slowed, realizing he wasn’t following me. When I looked behind me, he wasn’t in the doorway anymore, or following me up the stairs. I turned back into place and almost screamed when I looked up. He was just in front of me, uncomfortable close, immensely so that I could feel his warm breath on my lips. “How—” I choked out. It wasn’t humanly possible; he couldn’t have gotten to the top of the stairs in just a few short seconds, not like that.
“Kitra!” A horrifying shriek came from the left hallway, from what seemed to be my room. It was her, she was here. I launched myself forward, slamming into the man’s chest.
“Holly!” I yelled back. I seemed to go blind for a brief second, gravity pulling me backwards, and then all I could see was white. Before I could make sense of what had happened, I was falling into a freshly fallen pile of snow.
I lay there a couple of seconds before someone hauled me to my feet. “You’ve left me no choice.” A voice whispered from behind me. We were outside the house…? My uncertainty made it a question. There was pressure of my shoulder then suddenly the air felt thick, I might as well have been trying to inhale water, the darkness threatening to consume me. “Who—are—you?” My words slurred as I collapsed backwards into the man’s arms. His green eyes filled my vision, snow falling lightly on our heads. As he looked at me with a pained expression, I seemed to fade away completely; the darkness took me as my consciousness gave out.
‘Stupid, stubborn girl.’ I thought, staring at her one long moment more. My arm going behind her head, the other picking up her legs, I began to walk. My shield may have not worked earlier, but the ‘Knock-out’ ability still held its advantage.
So that was why she had come back here, to save the girl those people had taken by mistake. She had been scared, her heart beating fast. Despite the cold, her shivering was also because of it. Obviously she was smart enough to know they were after her, that they would come back for her here. But had she seriously believed she could take them on her own? I added another one of her traits to his list. ‘Stupid, stubborn, but courageous.’ I looked down at her face, her peaceful expression as snow fell on it, a knot forming low in my stomach. ‘And attractive.’
I boosted myself up onto the roofs ledge, letting her feet down while I opened her window. Picking her legs up again, I went through the window with her, and entered her room. Hopefully, she wouldn’t remember much, and not go back to that house. ‘We got lucky this time Kitra.’ I thought as I laid her onto her bed, taking off her backpack, covering her lower half with a blanket with care. Placing the backpack at the foot of the bed, I realized precisely how lucky we had been. That they hadn’t sensed her presence while we were in that house. Returning to her I knew without a doubt, that girl’s voice had been tapered into the walls and was used to lure her upstairs where they could…
The back of my hand brushed across her cheek, her eyebrows coming together in her sleep. Damn, why couldn’t it be easy to go back to that hallway? If she could be taught how to use her power, she could protect herself when the time came. Protect herself from her enemies. ‘I could teach her…’ a distant part of my mind whispered. If I did…if she could learn to trust me…maybe I could find out what made her different from all the others these people where targeting, maybe she could even help me .Bottom line was I would have to awaken her to do that, or die trying to earn her trust. As for awakening her, I wasn’t sure I was ready to do that just yet, and I wasn’t ready to leave her defenseless. Dying was a great possibility if I tried entering the mind again; decisions, decisions. I walked over to her window smiling sourly. “You’ve been spared.” I breathed and then jumping out the window as I fell I added. “For now.”
The snow really would have been beautiful tonight, if I wasn’t staking out our targets house. Then again, it wasn’t like I had much else to do.
I stood in front of the house, outside of the gate, as if waiting for the house to unload its sworn oath to secrecy to where the girl had been moved. The walls, however, were silent as ever. Over the past months I had broke into the police station and copied this girl’s record. Kitra Reed: Just turned sixteen two weeks before the death—murder of her parents. Her file had been very clear on the fact Kitra was moving to somewhere in town, but at a secret location. That helped out, a lot. But I guess it didn’t matter now where she had been. What mattered was where she was now.
Turning away from the house, I shook my head and began to walk down the street. Two houses down I found a better angle to watch the house from. I boosted myself up and grabbed the roofs railing, swinging myself up on top, repeating the same on the second story. I mused sliding down against the roofing, very nice. Now I had a place to sit.
No longer had I sat down, there was a flicker of movement in the darkness. A man dressed in black passed through the gate and stopped half way in front of the house. For a few long moments, he just stared upward. With a blur, he was on top of the second story and a gasp escaped my lips. He couldn’t be that fast…he wasn’t a passerby. But he didn’t look like one of them either…
“Who’s the Emo?” I struck backwards startled and hit Kaw square in the nose. He struggled backwards, blood dripping down from his hand as he clasped it over his nose. “W—what the hell!?” I bit my lip, trying to hold in a laugh, this wasn’t the time or place. “I could ask you the same thing.” I said sourly returning to look at the man. He was gone. “Damn it Kaw! You could have just cost us our lead!” I groaned in a whisper.
He said nothing, his hand dropped and blood flowed from both nostrils freely, his eyes locked on empty space below. Why had he come back so quickly from alerting the others? This couldn’t be good. “Kaw…what happened? What do you know?” His eyes remained focused on nothing as he spoke. “Alex…” He paused. “They killed him…I went back to the hideout…”
The cold seemed to seep into me, although I couldn’t feel it.
“Daren’s dead?” I strained out in a whisper. He had been the one who had awakened me. Who had started to gather the groups together for the war. He had saved me countless times from being killed, he couldn’t be dead. Something wet, spilled over my cheeks. “I’m sorry.” Kaw murmured sympathetically. “There’s something else too, they took our target, were too late.” A double whammy, stupidly taking out my cell phone. It was probably pointless to phone in an ambulance for Daren, but we still had hoped for the other’s being taken, they could still be alive, couldn’t they? I pushed the cell forcibly back down into my jacket’s pocket.
I was mere seconds from jumping off the roof and running into the house to open their portal, I needed to kill something. The thing that stopped me wasn’t Kaw’s hand on my shoulder, or self-preservation. “He’s back.” I whispered.
A girl laid cast in the snow beside the man. “He’s not human.” I told Kaw. “He doesn’t look like a shadow either.” He added coming to the same conclusion I had. The girl in the snow stood up and I felt a glimmer of hope yet. The man came behind her and she slumped backwards into his arms. “It’s her! Kitra’s alive!” I exclaimed in shock. “They took the wrong girl…” Kaw muttered in a distasteful voice pausing, also in shock as the man picked up Kitra and began to walk down the street. “It looks like they might be trying to correct that mistake.”
Gravity pulled me downwards as I stepped off the roof. Snow crunched under my feet as I landed, Kaw followed. “We follow, but don’t intervene unless he makes a move to hurt her or open a portal.” I reminded him with a glare. He hadn’t been able to follow my orders when Daren had been alive, I hoped at least for the time being his guilt would hold his morals into place. He held his hands up and shot at me as his hands curled into guns. I rolled my eyes.
A couple of blocks down, the man in black stopped in front of a house. I nudged Kaw towards a house across the street. As he defied gravity and flew to the second story within another blur, I adjusted my weight on the balls of my feet so I could touch the railing of the house to pull myself up. Once I got up on the railing I looked back to the man who had opened a window and carried the girl inside. Kaw’s voice stunned.“Well this is uh…” His voice drifted off as the man tucked in Kitra as if he were her older brother, or something more. The man stroked Kitra’s cheek then pulled back, a displeased look on his face. His voice was low as he muttered something, to faint to make out. moving around the room, he opened the window. Within a blur, he disappeared.
“Who was that guy?” Kaw asked, a confused look coming across his face. “Well it sure as hell wasn’t Spiderman…” I paused turning serious. “I don’t know…but he didn’t seem to want to hurt her, in fact he seemed…” I paused shaking my head. Since this guy obviously wasn’t human, it made me wonder if he had told her anything about the shadows.
Aside from this man there were two major conflicts waging war inside my head. One, the shadows had been wrong, Kitra hadn’t been captured; which meant something more than us still having a chance to save her. The shadows had taken the wrong person, an innocent by stander, to the realm of the dead. And two, how were we suppose to get Murdock and Jenna back, if they weren’t already dead. Our Numbers had been growing…but now…we were negative by one.
“We have to awaken her.” I whispered in resolve. “But I want to give her the choice of entering on her own accord.” Kaw raised an eyebrow at me, like I had grown a third eye. “Maybe you’ve forgotten but she’s already a part of the war whether she likes it or not. She has no choice.” I growled my gazed narrowing as I spoke through my teeth “No shit? I didn’t know that—really?” I threw the sarcasm as if they were punches, and then sighed. “That’s not what I meant by letting her choose…she went back to that house tonight for a reason. I think she might have cause enough to want to join the war without the knowledge that she’s already a part of it.”
His expression tensed up, I had ruined his opportunity to catch me talking about something I knew nothing about. “We should get going, I want to get my own body back before we visit her, she looks like she needs her sleep anyway.” I paused as I jumped down then before Kaw planted his feet on the ground I looked up to him. “And Kaw?” I whispered sweetly. “What?” He grunted jumping down. I started walking off. “Don’t frown; it will spoil your good looks.” Behind me he growled.
Fearing that pecker head might see me as weak, I waited until he had disappeared down the street to retrieve his body, to call for an ambulance.
The storm had passed, and everything was a blinding white. It added to the surreal feeling that Holly was gone. When I woke this morning, I felt strangely peaceful, but Grandmother Margaret didn’t wake me like she always did. After coming down stairs I saw her sitting at the kitchen table with a mug full of steaming coffee in her hands, her eyes unseeing as I walked by to the front door.
Had she been up all night? I wouldn’t have put it past her. Looking at my wristwatch I felt my peaceful feeling began to fade. Not only had Margaret not offered me a ride to school, she hadn’t gone into work. Everything was ass backwards this morning. My peaceful feeling was too, and completely inappropriate. Last night I hadn’t even dreamed, no shadows, nothing.
The path I had chosen to walk to school hadn’t really been a choice at all, more like I was on auto-pilot. It was almost as easy as breathing, natural. But something felt out of place too, something more than Margaret or Holly or even my sleeping habits. Maybe it was that there was actually something wrong with me…
I shook my head. Me, me, me. What am I doing? How self-centered could I get. My focus should be centered on Holly’s disappearance, and how I could get her back. ‘It’s not safe to think that way.’ A voice whispered faintly from a deep part of my mind. Safe or not, I needed to get her back…I needed…
Passing a white fence, I suddenly realized why this path felt so natural, and I stopped at the gate to the right of me. The fact that Holly was gone was in my head…but now, the ‘why’ seemed to be missing. It was like a piece of a puzzle was being shoved somewhere out of my reach. Looking up to the face of my old house, I came to the conclusion I was just blocking it out because it reminded me too much of my parents, that it would sort itself out. I took a few steps forward biting my lip.
I froze, my eyes locked to my path ahead. The voice had come from behind me, and it sounded too much like the man with the crimson eyes I had dreamed about those months ago. A shadow on the ground moved closer to my own and with a gasp I spun around to face my fear, only to find no one was there. Snow slid off from a branch from above me. “It’s time.” Another voice said.
“You’re choosing not to remember…” It whispered. I looked up to the tree, a woman stood perched in its branches, staring back at me. I was surprised I hadn’t seen her there, the tree was very tall and there weren’t a lot of branches she could choose from to balance the weight right. “Remember what?” My voice broke. ‘Run Kitra’ something told me.
Snow crunched from behind under someone’s feet. There was nowhere to run. I looked all around and realized just how wrong things were. I glimmer of a memory from last night began to surface. I remembered crawling out of my window and avoiding police. The police, they were supposed to be at the house…they hadn’t been…
I looked up to the woman again, a green pair of eyes shimmering back. “I know you.” I whispered. Her figure…a piece of the puzzle seemed to come back. “You’re the shadow…”I strained out in a whisper, the name that followed seemed involuntary “Alex?” A jolt of pain seared through my stomach the moment after I uttered her name. Her eyes went wide with shock, she was leaping down from the tree .The world was sliding sideways, and then I realized it was just me, a moment before I hit the sidewalk. This wasn’t happening…I gazed to the left where the figure behind me stood. The shadow glimmered as the blood stained sword fell beside me. Something moved around it, like a fog and a scent combined. That of lavender-lilac .The shadows…had… ‘Killed me?’ I wasn’t dead…I’m not dead…I’m not…
The blood stained snow began to glow, gradually getting brighter until all I could see was light; it hurt. I turned my head again. Closing my eyes, the voice of the woman fading as my vision turned black. When I opened my eyes again, the pain in my stomach vanished.
The light hadn’t been heaven, because I hadn’t really died. Heaven’s light had really just been the light from my window hitting my open eyes while I had been asleep. Sitting up I clasped a hand over my mouth. Helpless, weak tears were flowing down my face. The shadows…the shadows had faces and names now; ‘so much for the comfort of no dreams.’
I waited for Margaret to come and greet me, but the house was silent. After a moment or two I got up and went to the window. Its lock was unlatched; mechanically I latched it back as I looked down to the police cruiser, the one thing my dream had been missing. My hand flew to my stomach where I had been stabbed and lifted the fabric out of the way. For a minute my eyes went funny and I saw blood recede into a wound that had never really been there.
Enough was enough. I went over to my nightstand, took all the prescription drugs and dragged them into the trashcan. I had had it with doctors, I was done. For all I knew, all those drugs they had been prescribing me had been making these “Night Terrors” worse. Even so…it didn’t change the facts that lingered in these nightmares; this one especially.
Holly…was she really gone? Was I going crazy? Before I could stop myself I was walking into her room, it was empty. If she was really gone…why couldn’t I remember what happened to her? I was there right?
The dream also reminded me of the man with the crimson eyes. I had dreamed of him for a second time now. Well, I hadn’t actually seen him, but his voice…that had to be his, there was no mistaking it.
Confused, I manage to give myself a head ache trying to figure it all out while I got ready for school. After, I stumbled my way into the kitchen. I wasn’t very hungry this morning, but I knew I had better have something inside my stomach before I left, so I popped a slice of bread into the toaster. Grandmother Margaret was sitting at the table when I sat down to eat, a steaming cup of coffee in both of her small hands. I was sure she heard me come down the stairs, and surely was aware of my presence, but refused to acknowledge it. Maybe it was easier that way. Pretending that it was both of us gone, instead of just the one she really cared about. I got half of the slice of toast down before I couldn’t stand to put her more pain than I had to. “I’m going to school, goodbye.” I said heading out the door, working to be casual. ‘Like it matters to you.’ I thought grimly.
Outside two policemen in the cruiser got out of the car and assisted me into the back. I remembered vaguely that for my safety…the police were supposed to follow me. This morning, after that dream, I was glad to have the ride to school. I didn’t want to have to walk.
The snow had stopped sometime last night, and the sun was out again. ‘Another sunny day’ I thought sadly. The storm had passed on, as all storms must eventually do.
The police had chosen the quickest way to the school, the same path I had walked a thousand times. As we passed my old house I felt my eyes drawn to the tree. A black void hung between the branches. My nails dug deep into my backpack that was sat in my lap. We passed the house and I looked back in disbelief, our gaze meeting. The dream…wasn’t…
I turned back in place, eyes wide, biting my lip to keep it from trembling. The woman in black was real, and so were the shadows…
I mouthed out in a silent whisper as if trying to convince myself I had really just seen what I had dreamed. Same weather, same Margaret, I still couldn’t remember… and now there was “Alex.”
Keeping an eye on the house wasn’t very hard, but it still bugged me that I had to do it. Kaw was still gone from retrieving his body and we had agreed to meet here. Crouching into a sitting position against the branch, I cursed as my foot almost slipped on the snow. Sitting in trees was a habit I had caught from Kaw, another tell-tale sign that were we around each other to much. Not something I was particularly fond of doing, defiantly not one of my favorite pastimes. But since the others we gone, it looked like we would be spending even more “quality time” together. I sighed I was going to have to watch myself, and no more of his nasty pecker-head, bird-brained, habits were going to rub off on me.
If a habit of his had to rub off, it would have to be his all-so-cool attitude towards not caring. Like that was ever going to happen.
My mind kept drifting back to what happened to Daren, and how we’re going to find the others who had to be awoken. The plan was the same, to awaken all those who needed to be. But Daren had been the only one who could sense them. He had been trying to teach me to, to no avail. According to him, you had to keep an open mind, an open door… Whereas my door, was steadily bolted shut. So there was no possible way I could find the others any time soon, not like we needed to.
A faint whoosh was coming down from the road, a car was coming. For a moment I hesitated, deciding whether or not to move, then decided I didn’t care. Whoever was driving the car wouldn’t probably care, for all they knew I was just a young teenager up to no good. I looked lazily towards the car and maybe that wasn’t such a good thing. Two police officers sat in the front seats of the car, someone was in the back. I waited for them to stop, but they never did. As they passed, the person in the back cab looked at me wearily. I stared back with the same glazed look and turned my head when she did to look after her.
“Well there she goes.” I whispered. It seemed kind of strange she was acting like it was just any other day. My mind webbed through the theory I had earlier this morning about why she had come back to this house, why she would be tempted to choose in our favor. The girl the shadows had taken by mistake, the one we hadn’t seen, was likely to have been with Kitra at the time. In other words, she may have known her, been close to her, and felt bad about the mix up. In order for this theory to be correct however would mean she had known someone was really after her. But after what happened to her parents…I wouldn’t call that paranoia, rather good sense. Her choice to come and trade herself in itself was feeble and useless. In reality the shadows would never go for such a trade.
“She’s gone Alex.” He said through his teeth. Below I looked down to Kaw, knowing instantly what he had done. “I thought we agreed…” I paused focusing on the word as I jumped down from the tree. “To meet here.” I pointed at the ground.
“Alex this really isn’t the time. Kitra’s miss—”
“No Kaw.” I challenged getting up in his face. “I think this is the perfect time. Now did we, or did we not agree to meet here?” He fumed his black eyes turning into slits.
“And you decided in spite of everything that’s going on y—you would go to the target and then what Kaw? Tell me, I must know.”
He was silent for a moment, his eyes scanning cynically into mine, trying to intimidate me. ‘It won’t work you daft birdbrain, you should know that by now.’ I thought with menace. “Her house was on my way here and I thought I would explain to her, the options…” He paused pushing his index finger to my shoulder, his other hand curled into a fist under his arm.
“Your way?—but she’s…” I paused taking a deep breath. “Alright Kaw—enough. She’s fine. She just left in the back of a cop car. I think she’s on her way to school.”
This was a reason Kaw preferred to be a hermit; he couldn’t get along with anyone—he just couldn’t keep his mouth shut and follow orders. I smiled widely. “See?” I laughed in spite of myself then toned it to anger. “This…” I poked my finger into his left shoulder. “Is what happens when you don’t follow orders. And this…” I jabbed my other index finger into his other shoulder. “Your little episode just now could have been avoided if you had just done as we agreed.” His face turned into a stone, he probably didn’t what to admit I was right. I know I wouldn’t, that much we had in common. “Look…” I said without emotion. “I realize I’m not your ‘favorite person’ in the world.” That was putting it mildly. “You’re not my favorite person either. We aren’t the match-made-in-heaven kind of partners. But if you can’t learn to follow orders—and given the situation you probably will need to— you’ll get us both killed.”
We needed to stop standing around, fighting like children. He and I weren’t enemies. We needed to watch over Kitra and keep a sharp lookout for the man we saw earlier. “So…off to the school again.”
“I thought I was pretty clear when Daren found me that I wasn’t ever going back to high school again.” He was joking with me. “Yeah, and?”
He didn’t have a point; he was just trying to get under my skin. “Whatever you say boss, whatever you say.” Boss huh? I rather liked the sound of that.
As I watched her exit the car I slung my backpack casually over my right shoulder. It was time to talk to her. Scratch that, it was time to see if she recognized me. If she did—the knockout hadn’t erased as much as I had hoped. If she didn’t, I could give myself a pat on the back and be on my way. I walked past the police car, heading towards my locker. Once I made sure she would be safe, I could head back.
Once there I took the time to look at her expression as she put her books into hers before I opened the one three doors down. This was the only way I could think of to observe her without being noticed; in public. “Some storm we had last night.” I said casually avoiding eye contact, working on putting books into the locker. “Um—yeah” I saw her nod, eyes looking at me, her voice sounded unsure. That was good. “I’m—I’m sorry you look familiar to me…have we met before?” Damn, she did recognize me. “No I don’t think we have.” I lied coolly. “But I’ve seen you around, I think we’ve gone to school with each other for a couple of years.”
her eyebrows came together, then smoothed out as if she was realizing something. She chuckled. “Of course…” She laughed. “That must be it. You’ll have to forgive me I—um—I’ve had a bit of a weird morning.”
Phew! That was a close one. I closed my locker the same time she closed hers. Yeah I bet she was having a weird morning, I know I sure did that morning I woke up not knowing where or who I was. “There’s nothing to forgive.” She held out a hand. “I’m Kitra.” I reach for her hand “Sylus.”
I realize I was holding her hand longer than I should, but I felt like I couldn’t let go. Her smile faded but she didn’t seem to mind, almost like she was feeling the same thing. The School bell rang over head loudly and we were both shocked back into reality with a jolt. Instead of letting go of her hand I had gripped it tighter. “Sorry” I said foolishly letting go. “There’s nothing to forgive.” She spoke my words back to me. “See you around Kitra; it was nice to finally meet you.” Her face lit up with a half a smile. “Yeah, like-wise.”
Walking down the hall and out the door I assessed the situation. The knockout had worked. She had no memory of our encounter earlier this morning. I had hoped—expected the weight in my chest to lift before I had entered the school, if this had been the case. But now…it seemed to get heavier. Contemplating for an explanation, I went into an abandoned house down the road, opened a portal, leaving the human world. She would be safe in public for at least a couple of hours; meanwhile I could see what updates I could gather.
The red sky seemed to forecast another day had began here. I needed to go back to where the man and woman I had seen at Kitra’s house had been making camp, if the others hadn’t moved on by now. I entered the gate, the shockwave hitting my body. I knew where I wanted to go, but didn’t want to see it the moment I smelled the blood. It hit me in a way the shockwave hadn’t.
The smell of blood seemed to radiate from the old adobe building. I edged my way towards it, my sword drawn. From the base of the entrance to halfway in front of me, a blood trail was dark against the hard tan ground. I put my hand down against the ground, pulling back with my fingers digging in. Something had happened, the smell of blood was fresh, and the marks in the ground were from someone being dragged. For a split second I weighed out my options. The blood didn’t smell like the shadows did when one had been slain, so chances are it’s one of the others.
Regardless, if there was anyone alive beyond the entrance, they couldn’t be left that way after seeing me. Tempting to expose myself for the second time in one hour, I kicked in the door.
“She does know him.” I said gingerly from behind the brick wall we hid behind. Moments after our arrival, guess who came walking out the door, our John Doe.
“He’s a student?” Kaw expressed skeptically. “Oh don’t ruffle your feathers for nothing; it really isn’t hard to borrow a man’s body who attends this school.” I caught my own words. ‘How can we be sure this is actually the man who saved Kitra?’
John Doe walked across the street from the school into a house that was in bad need of a coat of paint and new windows. As I signaled for Kaw to follow him, I watched Kitra walk down the hall from the doors window, and into a classroom. I slumped back against the wall and slid down to the ground. Now we—I—wait. Wait for Kitra—wait for Kaw…who suddenly came running towards my way a minute later. “The guy took off into a portal.”
Acid turned in my stomach. “And you didn’t follow him why?” Kaw shook his head. “I tried he was through the gate before I could reach him.”
I cursed. This man always seemed to be slipping through our fingers. “And the body?” Kaw looked dubious as the words followed. “There wasn’t one…I saw him enter the portal while still in that form.” Well this day keeps getting better and better. Besides the fact that it was possible to enter the spirit plane with a body of this world, it did seem to narrow down our John Doe’s appearance. If I hadn’t known better, I would have first guessed him as one of us, but something was different. If he entered the portal as Kaw said, he must have been in the spirit form to begin with. Which could only mean one thing; he was a Demon.
“So now what?” He asked, his hands going behind his head. Two girls were walking by, about to enter the school. I looked back to Kaw smiling widely; this was going to be great. Throwing a punch at him, I heard him fall backwards as I ran toward the two girls. “Please help!” I pleaded, throwing my arms up. “My—it’s my friend—he’s hurt—please come!”
The girls looked at each other in surprised but followed my led. I stopped and let them go forward. “He’s right there” I pointed towards a bush. “Oh my god—he’s bleeding!” One gasped. I picked up a rock. “Check for a pulse I’m going to get help!” The other said spinning around. I hit her upside the head and then did the same to the other girl. “Was that really necessary?” Kaw said brushing dirt off himself.
I rolled my eyes and went behind the bush we had been behind. “Alright, let’s do this.” I said with a smile. “Do what?” He gave me another questioning look as he whipped blood from his nose. “You’ll see.”
My eyes closed, and I heard him sigh raggedly as I sat down on the ground to switch bodies. “Alex…I don’t like the sound of that.” He looked down at my body and I snapped my fingers, his head snapping up. “Alright.” I said shaking my hair; I wasn’t use to having it so short and so light in color. “Your turn.”
“I need a body Alex.” He growled. “I know, and there she is.” I smiled widely. His face pinched together with resentment. “You’ve got to be joking.” I shook my head enthusiastically “Nope!”
Spinning around, my head turned either way, watching for people “I’ll give you two some privacy.” I sneered with a laugh. “I don’t know why you’re getting so upset, if anything you should be thanking me. Let me put it this way, you’re getting to be in her pants right?” A high soprano voice growled and he stepped forward.
Entering my first class without Holly felt strange; she always sat beside me in history. Out of all the weird things that happened these past days one made things a little brighter. The guy I met this morning…Sylus. He seemed really nice…and hot. Maybe that’s an understatement. My pencil slid out of my grip, damn my hands were sweating.
Typically I wouldn’t be thinking so much of a guy in class. I knew school was too important to let boys get in the way. And history and English were my favorite classes. Still…there was something about this guy. I couldn’t put my finger on it. When we introduced ourselves, I had the strongest urge to ask him if he was wearing contacts…his green eyes were the most unusual shade…hard like green quarts but somehow soft. Not to mention his face seemed so familiar—maybe it was just that I had seen him around school…
“Kitra?” Mr. Green had been talking about something to do with civil war but I hadn’t heard the question. The entire class shuffled and turned to look at me. “I…” There was a series of rapid knocks at the door, startling everyone back into their place. Mr. Green grimaced, heading towards the door.
I looked around for one of my classmates, to see if they could re-peat the question before he got back when he called my name again. “Kitra, these two have been asked to come get you and escort you to the principal’s office”
In the doorway stood Mariah—the brunette and Megan—the blonde. ‘Great, two cheerleaders to brighten my day.’ Standing up, I began to collect my things. These were the type of people who had gotten a thrill out of a killing spree in town, of having a new target to center their feeble minds on. Long story short, we weren’t exactly in the same clique.
‘But they did save me from embarrassing myself.’ I thought going through the doorway. ‘If not to only embarrass me themselves.’
I had gone to Camden Hills Regional high school for two years, and I knew damn well were the principal’s office was, so why did I need to have them escort me? I blew out a long breath, following them in silence. The police had to be behind this, didn’t want to make a scenery with announcing my name of the intercom or escorting me themselves.
Every few moments, Megan turned her head around to look at me, her short straight hair barely moving. “So…”She began casually “Who’s the guy we saw you talking to this morning?” Those evil peeping toms. “No one.” I lied serenely as we turned into another hallway, and then they stopped so abruptly I almost ran into them. “W—what the—” I broke off as they turned towards me, their expression grave. “Look…” Mariah started crossing her arms. “It’s imperative we know for your protection.”
Wow, that must have been a mouth full for her to say. I wasn’t even entirely sure she knew what ‘imperative’ meant, nevertheless pronounce it correctly. My mind re-ran the sentence back to me. “Protect me?” I asked cynically, this didn’t add up. “Did the cops ask you to keep any eye on me or something?” I crossed my arms thinking of the more likely version. “Or did you two volunteer so you could get the scoop for more of a juicy rumor?”
Megan waved her hand at Mariah as she opened her mouth, about to say something. Irritated I began to head towards the principal’s office without them, I didn’t need the evil twin babysitters from hell as escorts. “Wait!” Called out Megan. “We’re not who you think we are.” Last time I checked they were still the evil, conniving, backstabbing, queen bees of the school, I kept walking without hesitation. “Don’t you want to know who took your friend?”
I stopped dead in my tracks. They knew about Holly? How? Had the police told them…everything? Retracing my steps, I walked back to them, my face held down. “You know how she disappeared?” My voice was low and sounded distraught in a desperate way. A confused look came across their faces as they looked at each other. “Disappeared?” Mariah questioned. “Kitra—she hasn’t just disappeared—she was taken.” Megan pressed on. Taken? Did she mean kidnapped? I shook my head…why couldn’t I remember any of this. “Taken?” I mouthed out.
“You don’t remember any of this, do you?” Mariah sighed unfolding her arms. I shook my head, and bit my lip. “That’s what he was doing…” Megan announced. “John doe erased her memories.” She looked to Mariah.
My saliva grew thick at the possibility that this—my enemies could actually be serious here…and their explanation plausible. “Erased her memories? Why?” Mariah objected. “To protect her maybe? She may have found out something he didn’t want her to know.” Megan said as if she was realizing it.
I felt like I was going to explode with questions. “Who—for crying out loud!? Who did this? Who took Holly and why can’t I remember!? And how did you guys know she was gone in the first place!?”
Megan expression was emotionless. “Follow us.” She whispered as she began to walk towards the entrance of the school. “I take it were not going to the principal’s office?” I said raggedly stepping outside. She chuckled. “We never were.” Seeing an empty cop car outside I couldn’t help but wonder. “Where are the police?” Another chuckle rang out but no answer was given.
Outside my enemies led me to a nearby wall that was surrounded by frozen vines and knee high bushes. A shoe was sticking out from one of the bushes…was someone laying there? They had taken down the cops! I looked to both of them for an explanation when both of their eyes began to roll into their sockets as they fell to the ground. “Oh god!” I rasped and attempted to get a pulse from Megan.
“They’re fine.” A man with black and red spiked hair came from behind the bushes. My mouth opened but the words wouldn’t come. He knelt down beside me picking up Mariah’s head, tilting it back. “Well more or less.” Following his gaze I saw blood, she had hit her head. “Damn, you know, you really did a number this time! Even I was starting to get a headache.” He exclaimed angrily. Me? What had I done? “What did I—” His black eyes silenced me, as if I had spoken out of turn. “Oh calm down bird-brain, she thought you were talking to her.”
I stood up from the ground to my full height, a woman with green eyes staring back at me. “ I apologies for the body switch-a-roo, but I thought it would be easier seeing someone familiar first, although I don’t think I exactly hit the comfort thing on the nail.” She paused as the man stood up and walked over to stand behind her. She pointed a crooked finger towards him without looking back. “This rude featherbrain is Kaw.” She stretched out a hand, I met her halfway.
“It’s nice to meet you Kitra I’m—”
“Alex” I chimed in. She nodded, releasing my hand, her eyebrows coming together. “How did you know my name?”
It must have been my constant state of shock that programmed my mind into the new sense of what normal was for me. My old standard of shock, was normal now. That had to be the reason why I didn’t seem too surprised—shocked that the girls that had passed outside of the school and were found by the Police later on hadn’t really been Megan and Mariah. And that the foot I had seen just beneath the bush hadn’t belonged to a Cop, because they had been inside talking to the principle at the time.
I still had so many questions. Even without asking, how I knew Alex’s name before she said it opened a can of worms of its own. In her resolve she told me that I was a part of something bigger than myself, and she would explain everything later but that all that’s happened in the these past few months to me…was just a small taste of what had been going on elsewhere. “What do you mean elsewhere?” I managed adding it to my growing list of questions. She sighed with a grimace. “There is a time for questions…” She paused, her frown deepened. “But I’m afraid it’s not now, we have to get you to a secure location, were in danger, especially you.” She added shaking her head, her tone distasteful. I pondered over why she would say it in such a way when I realized it almost instantaneously. Oh! She wanted to know how I knew her name…
“Why am I—”Kaw pinched my lips together with his index finger and thumb and nodded. ‘Fine, no questions’. “Alright.” Alex said rubbing her hands together briskly. “Shall we?” I nodded and we started off down the road. We walked down the road the police cruiser had come from, and halfway I realized where they were taking me. We stopped in front of my new home at the gate. “Go collect your things, we’ll wait here.” Alex said smiling. Damn, another question. Why, why, why. “Its freezing out here, you two are more than welcome to come in.” Although I wasn’t entirely sure that was correct. Grandmother Margaret’s blue Honda was still in the drive way.
“We’ll be fine.” She tried to reassure me. “Go pack enough clothes for a couple of days.” She answered my unspoken question. I nodded biting my lip and turned to enter the house.
After walking outside in the cold, I looked forward to feeling the warmth that lay beyond the door. Only, upon entering, it felt cold, as cold as if not colder than it was outside. Looking in front of me, I could even see my breath.
Without a glace to check if Margaret was still in the kitchen, I raced my way upstairs and into my room. Dumping out all my school stuff out of my backpack, I discovered my belongings already packed. The frame that lay on top of my clothes had me turning to my dresser, to find it the picture had been put inside. ‘I never took this to school with me.’ I thought biting my lips as my eyebrows drew close to each other. Mom and Dad stared back at me.
Rolling up my memory form pillow, I added it to the collection, tossing in the picture on top and zipped up my backpack, I couldn’t leave them behind. Going down the stairs I heard the thought in my head. ‘Couldn’t leave them behind.’
Wasn’t that what I was doing to Holly’s grandmother? Whether she hated me or not, she had taken me in. Put a roof over my head and fed me over these past months. After all the shit I had put her through, I should at least say goodbye, I owed her that much. Placing the first coat in sight over my jacket, I went down stairs.
“Grandmother Margaret?” I called going into the kitchen. ‘Why was she keeping it so cold in here?’ I wondered seeing my breath again as I spoke. She was still there sitting at the chair, only she had laid her head in the cove of her arms on the table. I walked over to the opposite end of the table. “I’m leaving.” I announced in a soft whisper that made my eyes sting. “But before I go I wanted to tell you how thankful I am for you taking me in after what happened to my parents, and that I’m going to do everything I can to get Holly back.”
She didn’t even bother to lift her head and that made the sting increase causing water to flow from my eyes. “I realize you may never forgive me for what happened to you and Holly, but I am sorry, I truly am.” I started to walk out of the room when I slipped on something wet in the floor, and hit the tiled floor hard. “AH!”
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Finally, all four books in the Night Terrors Series have been bundled together in one. I would wake up in the middle of the night; a cold sweat drenching my sheets, gasping for air, my hands racing defensively to my throat. In these brief moments that followed, I would always realize two things; one: it all had been a nightmare, a terrible nightmare, and two: the three figures standing at the foot of my bed hadnâ€™t disappeared with the scenery, they had fallowed me out. These figures, I knew them too well. Two were men silhouettes and one was female. It wasnâ€™t all to surprising how well I knew them, I saw them every night. I would always be running from them in a dark, eerie familiar place. But they would always reach me, pin me down, and begin to choke the life from me. Even after I woke, the pressure around my throat was real and would linger in bruises, and those figures would still be there, staring at me. Doctors called them night terrors. They said they werenâ€™t uncommon for children and young teenagers who had recently lost their parents. Only, these started the night of my sixteenth birthday, two weeks before their death.