Chapter I - Nightmares
The room is dark, except for a dim light bulb creating a small spotlight in the centre of the space. There she is, draped in the low glow she's crying. I want to reach out and touch her but I can't move. She's sat upright hugging her knees to her chest, muttering amongst her sobs.
"Please, please let me go....I promise, I won't tell anyone... please don't hurt me".
The figure moves silently, looming over. Her face is stained with tears, her light, blue eyes, bloodshot and red as she looks up at it. The figure grabs a section of her matted, blonde hair and pulls her head back. She scrunches her eyes shut, as her crying gets louder.
She pleads again to no avail.
The figure starts to laugh, a cold, chilling sound that reverberates throughout my body. Still holding the girl's head back the figure holds something against her throat, the dim light reflects off the shiny metal object and I can see it's a knife.
She starts to scream "NO.NO...PLEASE NO!!"
The figure slides the knife across her throat; I can't see if it has cut her, I lurch forward to grab it screaming my own plea,
I bolt upright gasping for breath; I look around blinking several times until my eyes adjust to the darkness of my bedroom. I'm covered in sweat, but I feel cold. I start to control my breathing as I realise it's just another nightmare.
I turn on my bedside lamp and look at the time on the clock, it's 3:15am. Groaning I lie back down, closing my eyes all I can see is the terror on the girl's face and I can hear his laughter. Knowing it's going to be a long, restless night I turn to my side and try to get back to sleep, leaving the light on because being in the darkness is an unsettling thought.
It feels like I've just managed to close my eyes when I groggily awake to the sound of my alarm. I switch it off; looking at the time the clock reads 8.30am.
Oh shit! I meant to be at work now.
I scramble out of bed and jump to my wardrobe desperately searching for my work clothes, why do I never prepare them the night before? I grab a pair of skinny jeans, hastily remove my pyjama bottoms and put them on.
Looking around my untidy room, I spot my black, t-shirt scrunched on the floor next to some empty food wrappers. I was meant to wash it, but I forgot. I take off my vest top and put it on, ignoring the fact that it's creased.
I run into the bathroom, shove my long, brown hair up in a messy bun and wash my face. For a second I look, in despair, at the reflection in the mirror. I'm quite attractive, I think to myself, although today is not proving my theory. My usually warm coloured skin looks washed out, I look tired, with dark circles under my eyes and they're bloodshot. This makes me think of the girl from my nightmare; I shudder and remember my task in hand. I grab my shoes, coat and bag and rush out the door.
I head to my car, but stop as I recall I don't have any petrol in it. Sighing I turn in the other direction, towards the bus stop a few feet away. I try calling my boss but there's no answer. Damn, he's going to be mad. Swearing at my phone I look up just in time to see the bus zoom past me. Wow, today is not my day.
An hour later after running, jogging, getting a stitch and then slowly walking, note to self, I must get fitter, I arrive in the town centre, outside Cibus, the cafe I waitress at. The cafe is long and narrow, I walk in the entrance, past the tables and chairs, where there's already a lot of people eating the bad quality, over priced food we serve here. I glance at the plasma TV, hooked onto the wall, there's a football game on, muted, nobody seems to be paying attention to it.
Down at the end of the cafe, near the till, stands my angry looking boss Martin Trevor. He's a short man, shorter than me and I'm only 5'4. He's standing with his arms folded, as I note he's got more hair on his arms then his head. He's glaring at me. He points at me and then towards the staff room door and I swallow hard as I follow him in.
"Riley" he growls, his voice rough. He reminds me of a bull dog, ready for a fight.
"This is the third time this week your late!" I think he's trying to intimidate me, as he squares up to me.
I look down and start my excuse "Martin I know I'm..."
"It's Mr. Trevor to you! How many times do I have to tell you!" he snarls cutting me off.
"Right, of course I'm sorry. Mr Trevor, it's just...."
He puts a stubby finger up in the air to silence me.
"This is not acceptable. I am running a fine establishment here."
He signals around the room and I look around confused as to whether he's talking about this cafe, fine is not a word I would use to describe it.
"And I expect my employees to emulate my high standards! Look at the state of you! You're a mess!"
Stunned at his insult, my mouth drops open, I mean he is in no position to comment on my appearance. My brain goes into overdrive, thinking of all the nasty adjectives I would like to use to describe him. But remembering I need this job, I stop myself and say as politely as I can manage,
"I'm sorry Mr. Trevor; I promise it won't happen again"
"Your right! Next time, you're fired! Now get to work! I don't pay you to stand around chatting!" With that he waddles out the room, grumbling to himself.
I do not get paid enough for this. I reluctantly walk over to my locker, put my belongings in and get to work.
The day goes by slowly, a blur of serving, rude, disgruntled people, a baby even spits up on me, leaving a stain on my t-shirt. By two o'clock I realise I'm starving, having not eaten anything all day. I'm just about to go on my break when I recognise a familiar voice calling my name, in a stern manner.
There standing by the door, with her suitcase in hand is my best friend and roommate Lily. She looks amazing as usual, her shoulder length, blonde hair is in loose curls, framing her delicate features. She's wearing tight black trousers, a blazer, a fitted top and killer heels, not your average travelling outfit. She's been away on business for a month and I've missed her.
"Lily!" I exclaim bounding towards and giving her a hug, to which she doesn't reciprocate, I let go of her and look up at her confused.
"Do you know the last thing I want to do after nearly a seven hour flight and a two hour train journey?" Her face is expressionless as she stands with her hands on her hips.
I ponder whether the question is rhetorical, looking confused. Her expression changes to annoyance and she continues, raising her voice;
"Is wait another hour, for my best friend" she uses her hands to implicate inverted commas, "to pick me up from the station!"
I slap my hand to my forehead in horror.
"Oh no! I'd said I would pick you up didn't I. I'm so sorry, I had to work and I have no petrol, I'm sorry Lily. Here let me buy you lunch... to make it up to you."
I grab her case and usher her to a table.
"From this dump, you're going to have to do better than that" She mutters, raising an eyebrow as she sits.
"What would you like?" I take out my pad and pen from my pocket and convert into full waitress mode.
"Something that's not covered in grease" She remarks sarcastically, as she wipes the table with her finger inspecting it for dirt.
"Ah water then..." I laugh at my own joke, her face is sullen.
"I'll see what I can do." I head towards the kitchen.
"Riley" she calls after me.
I stop and turn towards her.
"You look a mess." She smiles sweetly, as she pulls out her phone and gets engrossed in it.
I turn back towards the kitchen. Once Inside I see Jo, the chef in the corner, searching through the giant fridge.
"Hey Jo, can you make me a burger with chips and a cheese salad, please"
She stops rummaging, looks up, smiles at me,
"Sure thing honey" and gets back to the fridge.
Back in the cafe, I sit opposite Lily.
"So how was New York?" I say, excited to hear all about her trip.
"It was good." She's texting on her phone. "You've got something disgusting on your top"
I put my chin in my hand to cover up the stain and press on with the conversation,
"So how does your design look... in real life?"
She stops texting and goes into full assault about how great the interior of the hotel she's been designing looks. Her face lights up as she talks about the materials, texture and colours.
"That sounds amazing Lily. Have you told Paul you're back yet?"
She pulls a disgusted face. "Oh we broke up. I'm with Jamie now."
"He's an architect at my firm, he's been working on the design of the hotel with me and in New York, well... we just hit it off"
A broad smile etches across her face and her eyes glaze over like she's remembering something fondly. I smile at her, she moves fast, it's like she has a factory just producing men for her.
"Anyway what's up with you? Anybody new on the scene since I've been away?" She flashes a mischievous smile at me.
I laugh "Nope, don't really have the time, you know with work... or the energy"
"Oh Riley, you're so boring! You do look tired. You could carry a week's worth of shopping in those bags" She smirks as she points to my eyes.
I half smile. I'm glad she's back, I've missed her and I've wanted to talk to someone about this.
"I've been having trouble sleeping"
She starts texting on her phone again, half listening.
"Oh really...why? Are you scared of the dark?" she laughs.
I quickly smile and pick up the courage to tell her.
"The past week I've been having terrible nightmares."
She looks up from her phone, furrowing her brow. I continue.
"They're always the same, it's a dark room and a blonde girl is sat in there crying. And then a figure steps in, sometimes it does nothing but stand there..."
I stop, look around the café, lean in closer towards her and lower my tone.
"But last night it had a knife and I think it cut the girl's throat, I'm not sure because then I woke up."
There's an awkward silence, as I try to gage her reaction.
Dryly she comments"You know Ri, I've told you to stop watching those stupid horror films before you go to bed. They're playing havoc with your imagination" She returns to texting.
"Hey! The Return of The Night Creature films are not stupid. They actually have a believable plot and good acting"
We both laugh at this comment.
I sit back in my seat, she's right, I'm being silly. It's just the nightmares feel so real, like I'm actually there. I glance up at the muted TV, the daytime news is on and the featured story makes me go cold, in block letters the title reads
'AMANDA TANNER MISSING FOR A WEEK'.
There on the screen flashes up a photo of a blonde girl, with light blue eyes.
"Oh my god... that's her!" I say in disbelief.
Lily looks at me from her phone, frowning "Who?"
I point at the TV.
"The girl from my dream"