Darkness enveloped my every subconscious thought like an all encompassing power where logic and reason belonged nowhere in sight and fear gripped me so tightly, even in sleep, I knew my breath was rough and ragged.
I was running from a nightmare that was so terrifyingly realistic escape seemed forlorn and out of my reach. Vicious black flames licked at my skin and burned so vigorously I could feel my skin peel away at their touch. I tried desperately to scream, to alert any of the dark silhouettes that laughed leisurely to my agony, yet the sound couldn't escape the steel cage of my set lips. Watery tears raced down my smut covered cheeks leaving clear trails behind them; only to be burned up in the same fiery heat that surrounded me.
If only I could leave. If only these dreams ceased to exist and let me live my life in the peace I longed for.
Please, help me!
I heard my voice plead toward any of the shadowy forms. Even as I felt myself draw closer to them, I could feel them pulling further, and further, out of my reach. I reached out in an attempt to get closer to the laughing crowd through the flickers of flame, ignoring every ounce of pain I could as my body grew numb.
I realized quickly that these people, staring down at me with such enjoyment in this dark pit of despair, did not have the intention of helping me. They revelled at the sight of my torment with such pleasure it was painfully clear that my escape was not on their agenda. And even as I recognized the pair of soulless black orbs burrowing deep into my own, I understood quickly that just because my sleeping body was being nudged awake, and through the haze of sleep that blurred my vision, the nightmare was far from over.
I could feel myself being pulled from unconsciousness, instantly thanking the familiar voice for plucking me out of the all too life-like dream. It took me awhile to place a face to the comforting sound calling my name however, after a brief moment of my eyes adjusting to the light that seemed to have been hidden from me before, I could finally make out the face of my foster brother.
Lines of concern crinkled around his youthful features that made him look decades older than eighteen and I realized it must have been me that caused this sudden fear in him. He had told me several times, after waking me from another frightful dream, that I rolled around restlessly and screamed so loud the skin on the back of his neck stood tall.
He was dressed sharply in a white button up shirt, rolled up to his sleeves, with a classy black vest and dress pants. His black hair was gelled back in a stylish manner and his dark brown eyes stared directly at me.
I brushed strands of bright red hair drenched in cold sweat behind my ear becoming irritatingly aware that my appearance was not at its best. I couldn't understand why I always felt it was necessary to look my utmost in front of the man I considered more as a friend than a brother. But then again, there weren't a lot of things in my life that I understood.
"Luca," he began, oddly breathless and I couldn't place why, "are you alright?"
I stared up into his brown eyes and slowly dragged myself into an upright position under the comfort of my blankets. "I'm fine, Archer." I lied. "Just a bad dream, that's all." I tried to turn my pink lips up to reassure him, but from the frown that I received from him told me I hadn't achieved.
"You've always been a horrible liar, even back when Mum first took you in." He tried to look nonchalant, but failed as much as I had.
Ivy took me in when I was five after my biological parents had passed away in a freak accident that sent my previous home up in flames. She tried hard to help me settle in, but I had never viewed her as my family despite the fact I barely remembered my real family. Nevertheless, I felt comfortable enough to call it my home.
When I didn't answer, Archer filled the silent void that had filled my bedroom. "I have good news, and bad news..." He trailed off giving me the option to choose which one I wanted to hear first.
I said, "Give me the good news first."
Pushing the covers aside, I made my way towards my closet in my cotton pyjamas and began shuffling through clothes, my body mechanically performing what only came naturally after waking up.
Archer stayed perched on the side of my bed, watching me carefully. "Good news is that you're awake now." After I sent him a cheesy smile over my shoulder, my way of silently thanking him, he continued. "Bad news is that Margo just called. She ran out of gas again and needs you to pick her up from work."
Typical. Margo was my best friend. My only friend if you wanted to get technical. The days she actually remembered to fill her car up with gas shocked me more than when she didn't.
I recalled that I had decided to turn in early for the night without the intention of needing to venture back outside. I rifled through my clothing faster now, determined to get out of my sweat covered clothing and far away from the memory of a nightmare that was quickly becoming fogy.
"I let her know you were on your way. Are you sure you're alright to drive? I can give her a lift if you don't feel up to it?" Archer's offer was genuine however I immediately refused his offer with a shake of my head. He and Margo never got along famously. I could picture the two of them now, sitting silent and still in the car as far away as possible from each other.
"Like I said, I'll be fine. Besides, I'm used to the nightmares." Liar.
Archer's lips formed a hard straight line. "Okay, I'll go let Mum know where you're going. Drive carefully." He left without another word and the door slammed shut behind him. He didn't like me hanging around Margo at all, and it wasn't rare for him to flare up with anger whenever I did go out with her.
As I pulled on a pair of jeans, black knee high boots, and a white blouse I once again tackled the confusing puzzle that was Archer and Margo's hate for each other. From the very moment they were introduced to one another, anger and hostility seemed to emanate from them.
I shook on my jacket and flipped the hood up over my head; I could already hear the patter of rain drops on my window. I raced my way downstairs and passed the living room where Ivy sat enjoying a warm hot chocolate before bed, no Archer in sight, when she called out to me, "Remember, Luca, eleven o'clock."
"I'll remember," I shouted back as the door closed behind me.
I lifted my handbag above my head in an attempt to block out as much of the pelting rain as possible while jogging my way to the light green beetle sitting silently in the drive way. I jumped in and shoved the keys in the ignition as fast as possible and rushed to get the heater on.
With a sigh of relief I slumped back in the leather seat and let my eyes close over for a brief moment, enjoying the warm air blowing against my chilled skin. These dreams always took the life away from me. I felt lethargic and confused thanks to the same black eyes that always stare at me with an intent I couldn't place a name too.
I slammed my hands against the wheel and repositioned myself and took off to rescue Margo once again.
I pushed open the glass doors and calmly made my way to the counter where a young brunette wearing a black dress shirt and apron was counting the till. She had been so absorbed in doing so that she failed to hear the bells chime as I walked inside.
I stopped in front of the counter and waited for her patiently to finish. I had counted the till before and it was difficult to do so when being spoken to at the same time. Her head didn't rise up from the money in her hands.
"Welcome to IHOP, I won't be a tick."
I smiled down into the mess of brown hair suppressing a laugh. "Hey, Susan. I'm just here to pick up Margo; is she out back?"
My voice break her reprieve and her eyes found mine with an apologetic expression. She dropped the money to the counter. "Ah, sorry Luca. If I knew it were you I would have said something. Wait here and I'll go get her." She started to race toward the back room, that was blocked off from the customers view, however stopped mid way and doubled back to the cappuccino machine as if she had forgotten something.
Dropping a take away cup in front of me she left to find Margo again. She yelled behind her; "Margo told me you were coming. Your favourite, on the house."
I laughed and grabbed the cup. The smell of caramel swam around the air and tempted my taste buds to take a taste. I lifted the rim to my lips just as I caught a blur of blonde in my peripherals and, without warning, felt something solid collide into my chest.
I moved my hand quickly aside to avoid the boiling hot contents as it splashed out of the cup and onto the floor and I gazed down at the girl embracing me tightly.
"Thank God you're here! I thought I would be trapped here forever!" The over dramatic voice cried out.
I frowned at her, already used to this sort of reaction. "Well, if I were going to be trapped somewhere forever, I wouldn't mind it being IHOP."
Margo pulled back and watched me carefully to see if I were joking. "You're only saying that because you have a weird obsession for pancakes."
I shrugged my shoulders and made my way outside knowing Margo will undoubtedly follow. "I wouldn't call it an obsession. See you tomorrow Susan!" I called back.
Pushing the door open I was relieved to notice not a drop of rain was in sight. The car was parked close to the door, a little habit I got used to quickly to avoid any trouble from occurring and opening the door, I dropped my handbag on the back seat.
Margo peered over the roof of the car at me. "You're here practically every day. Whether it's to eat, work or pick me up. I'm actually kind of surprised you haven't died from pancake poisoning yet."
A corner of my pink lips arched up. "Dying of pancake poisoning sounds like a pleasant way to die." I teased and we dropped into our seats. "And besides, I wouldn't be here so often if you remembered to fill your car up with gas once in awhile." My thumb pointed to the old pickup truck next to us and I pulled out of the car park.
Margo wriggled around until she became comfortable and her eyes watched the road. "That beast is getting old, not worth the money anymore."
I sent her a quick look of shock before I returned my eyes to the dark road. "How can you say that? It's your first car. Your parents bought that for you."
Margo's parents were always travelling, so much so, that in all my life I had never once met them. In a way to make up for being absent all the time, they bought their loving daughter a rusted, second hand truck. Not as generous as some teenagers might ask for, but they struggled to keep their farm property afloat with the little funding they had.
My best friend refused to meet my eyes. "Archer said you were in bed when I called. Pretty early don't you think?"
I allowed her to think her change of subject went unnoticed. "I just felt like an early night, that's all." I reasoned pathetically. Margo knew full well what type of night terrors I experienced.
She shrugged her shoulder nonchalantly. "I suppose that's reasonable enough. Sorry for waking you up." Her arms were now tightly crossed around her chest, making her already large breasts stick out even more of her work uniform.
I ignored her body tone and tried to behave that the topic of her parents hadn't brought this upon her. "Don't worry about it."
The rest of the one hour drive out to her farm went on without a hitch. We had pumped some tunes loudly on the stereo and sang as poorly as we possibly could; which wasn't all that difficult to begin with. Margo recounted all the shadowy strangers that had made their way into the restaurant that night and all the crazy mishaps she caused throughout the kitchen from her bubbly attitude.
Sounded as if it were another night shift with Margo Stewart.
I pulled up just outside of Margo's front porch and the light flashed on as soon as it sensed movement, illuminating the way for Margo to make her way inside. She turned to me and embraced me quickly.
"Thanks for the lift, I really appreciate it." Her gratitude was genuine.
I smiled in the idling car as she made her way outside. "No problem. Call me if you need a lift anywhere tomorrow."
"Of course. Night" She waved to me and shut the door behind her. I waited for her to go inside before I started the trip back home. I didn't want to leave her side. Margo had this weird ability to cheer me up, to help me forget every other problem in the world when I was around her. I didn't want to be left alone to my own devices.
I sighed and reversed out of the mile long driveway wishing I could make up an excuse for Margo to spend the night but I was already going to break curfew as it was.
The trees on the main road hugged close to the street, making it appear darker than it already was. This didn't make me any more comfortable.
I suppose I was afraid of the dark, and what lurked inside it. Not knowing is the biggest fear of all.
I tried to brush the fact that my heart began to race fast aside and focus full heartedly on the road. The radio was down to a dull roar now that Margo had left and beneath the canopy of leafs it was hard to get reception. The only sound it made was static. I would have switched it off if my hands weren't so tightly wound to the drivers wheel. I even refused to acknowledge that my knuckles were turning white from all the pressure.
I drew in a sharp breath; I knew what came next.
The beckoning whisper trailed off into silence leaving me shaken to the core. I forced myself to ignore it as best as possible and continued driving down the deserted road.
"Get out of my head." I growled through my tightened jaw without conviction. After all, it's never stopped them before.
I knew better than to drive during a 'fit', my psychologist liked to call them, but nonetheless my foot pressed harder down onto the accelerator.
Shades of black and green blurred around me as my speed picked up.
Each call to me only convinced me to go faster.
My foot slammed down on the breaks and the old tires fought hard for grip on the concrete road. It screeched to a halt and I stared ahead, unable to believe what I had just seen. What I was seeing.
A head of me, I could see a distinct silhouette of a person standing in the middle of the road. I couldn't make out any physical features, only that the dark body seemed to quiver. It had leapt out of the shrubbery and onto the road after some other shadows that had ran off to the other side and back out of view.
I pealed my fingers off the steering wheel and began to open the door gingerly. I didn't want to scare the poor guy anymore than I already had. As my hand drew closer to the handle the body just vanished.
I gasped at what I had just witnessed. I hadn't looked away from the shadow due to shock and yet it was still nowhere to be seen. Kids were known to much around out here because they were hardly ever caught, but I couldn't believe that a child would put himself in such danger and be able to just disappear from plain view like dark magic.
I jumped out of my car, slammed the door shut, and jogged the short distance to where I had last saw the body and desperately inspected my surroundings for any clues. I found nothing that indicated anybody had been past here. The shrubbery not even disturbed. There were no tracks in the wet dirt from the rain or broken branches.
All evidence lead to nothing.
I cupped my forehead and heaved a sigh, trying to fight through the sudden chill I felt. It was weird for Summer vacations weather to hold such a bite to it.
"It's alright, Luca. Calm down." I tried to reason to myself aloud, although it hardly worked.
If I couldn't find anything to prove there really was someone here, it would have to mean I had imagined it. Which only meant my schizophrenia was getting worse.
I slapped my hands down onto my thighs and leaned over, fighting to keep a sane train of thought. "Oh God," I droned into the dead silent of the night.
A few moments passed with me standing in the middle of the road and I decided it was probably time to pick myself up and make my way home. The last thing I needed was to hang out here for too much longer. Ivy was going to drill me for an explanation as to why I came home so late and then I would have to tell her about what I saw.
An appointment with my psychologist would be made first thing tomorrow morning.
In defeat, I wheeled around and lazily made my way back to the car. I picked my eyes up from my toes and froze as they landed on the open driver's side door. I closed it, didn't I? I mentally started to recount the steps I took just minutes before to try and figure out if I had closed the door.
I couldn't work myself around the shock I was in and my brain was a puddle of thoughts that seemed to blur into the next with no real reason. Again, I shook off the foreboding feeling in me and got back to the car as soon as I could.
I swung back into my seat, closed and locked the doors and reached for my key that I had left in the ignition. When my hand grasped nothing the panic truly set it. I gazed down to see if they had fallen onto the floor but all my eyes could rest on were the jaggedly cut wires and I jumped out of the car without a second thought.
Something pushed me back against the hood of the beetle and I let out a scream that was quickly blocked by a strangers hand. I looked into his dark eyes and tried to fight against his tight hold around my waist.
He pushed me harder against the car now, my hip painfully colliding with the hood and I stood in my place out of fear of what he might do next to keep me still.
"Now now, Sweetheart. That's no way to treat a guy whose only here to help." His smug smirk told me he didn't care all that much about helping me. "I noticed you were having a bit of car troubles, thought I might lend a hand."
His hand slipped a little and I forced my face away. "I don't need help from a stranger!" I spat in reply. This only seemed to make him enjoy the situation more.
"I love a girl with a bit of fight in her." He said against my cheek.
I wriggled out of the way as another voice interrupted. "Come one, Vincent. We can finish this back at the hang out."
"If they catch as out this far, they'll have our heads." Another man whined.
Vincent sent them a look full of fury. He probably didn't appreciate being interrupted by his friends. "I'll do what I want on my time."
He removed his arm from my waist and I took advantage of the opening. I lifted my knee as fast as I could until I felt it hit something solid. Vincent dropped to the ground and I ran off in the opposite direction.
I could feel each breath leave my lungs in giant efforts as I tried to make the distance between myself and the boys further. I opened my mouth to scream out for help as I felt a sudden sharp pain in my scalp.
I fell to the ground and reached above me to try and force the fierce grip on my hair to let go but the boy pulled me back, ignorant to my yelp of pain, until I was up against his chest. His lips tickled against my ear and his hand pulled tighter on my hair.
"That wasn't very nice, girly." Vincent's voice rang in my ear despite the quietness of it. My legs scrambled to find solid ground to stand up on and I continued to tear at his hand. "But you're going to come back home with us and help entertain us for the night. It's been a while since we've enjoyed the company of a sweet lady friend such as yourself."
He laughed as he dragged me up off the ground and over his shoulder, finally releasing my hair and I kicked and screamed against him. He hardly payed attention to me.
The other two boys were laughing and helped Vincent drop me into the back seat of my beetle. The younger of the three, who was afraid of being caught, withdrew some rope from his pocket and tied my hands and feet together. Vincent tore some fabric from his dirty white shirt.
"I'm afraid we're going to have to blind fold you."
"Please. Don't." I begged through a downpour of salty tears. I had lost the energy to fight now that I was bound.
"Shh," his finger pressed up against my lips to silence me and I closed my eyes to try and block it all out. "We can't have you finding out where we live, after all."
Heaving sobs left my mouth as he tied the cloth around my green eyes and I felt defenceless. There was nothing I could do to avoid what these three boys had in store for me.
I curled up against the back seat as much as I could and listened as the other two jumped into the front seat and started the car into life again.
I hated being left alone.