The Devil is Sleep

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 6 (v.1) - 5

Submitted: September 12, 2019

Reads: 9

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Submitted: September 12, 2019

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As she got ready to go out, Winnie couldn’t quite shake the strange feeling she’d had in her dream, a kind of hollow stomach, as the rollercoaster slowly cranks up the incline and then stops for a moment of anticipation before dropping. She smothered the feeling by turning up the arctic monkeys and shuffling through her bag for her eyeliner. She rarely wore makeup day to day, but she still knew she had brought it with her. She always brought it with her – ‘in case of emergency.’ This was exactly the situation she never thought she’d be in; catching up with an old friend. Ever since leaving education, making and keeping friends got a whole lot harder. Winnie had to work to keep connections as everyone moved from city to city, and got lives of their own. It was unfortunate that most of her friends were Matt’s friends. This would be a nice distraction, Winnie thought, as she expertly applied her red lipstick. It suited her plump lips and screamed danger. She couldn’t help but smile wickedly at her reflection, secretly relieved she wouldn’t be spending another night in with her parents watching some inane BBC drama. 
She called a goodbye as she jumped down the stairs, two at a time, and didn’t wait to hear the reply as she shut the door behind her and unlocked the door to her trusty Hyundai Amica. The little silver box was a reliable little thing, and as ugly as it was, she loved it. Nerves fluttered in her stomach at the thought of meeting an old friend on a night out in a town she last frequented more than 4 years ago. It felt strangely full-circle, and the drive down to Shrewsbury kept triggering déjà vu. She followed the twisting road of the a49 like it was the back of her hand, and was soon parked up along the small street of Belle Vue, having to parallel park to fit in by the Victorian houses all sandwiched together. They were tall and imposing in the dark, their pointed roofs piercing the skyline in jagged unison. If not for the horrendous parking, Winnie could imagine herself living in one of the old terraced beauties. 
Harriet answered the door almost immediately upon walking up the steps to the porch, and her smile seemed to make the streetlights shine a bit brighter. 
‘Winnie! I thought you might not come! I’ve called a taxi, but it’s not due for another forty minutes, bloody Saturdays. We’ve got pre-drinks going though, I’ve poured you a schnapps. Oh, and Rhys is here as well!’
 It felt like she’d time travelled back to her years in college, sitting in a demure living room with no parents to be seen; coffee table cluttered with various bottles of alcohol; surrounded by friends she knew well but hadn’t seen for years and all the ‘classics’ playing a bit too loudly for the neighbours liking. Rhys swept her up into a hug when she shyly entered the room, complimenting the lipstick she wore as if not a day had passed since he’d seen her. He had 3 new rings in his ear, she noticed, but the same affable smile and easy presence. She’d loved that about him; how he could make the whole room feel comfortable with each other just with the confidence he exuded.
Winnie was soon swept up into the giddy delight of downing shots when Red Light by the Policeman came on, and Rhys screamed: Throwback time, you guys on this side, and you on this side; you're drinking to red light and we're drinking to Roxanne! They were pouring shots as fast as they could to keep up with the music. The song finished just as a text pinged through on Harriet’s phone alerting her to the presence of the taxi dawdling outside. Winnie’s head was spinning slightly as she stood, startled that she was drunk so soon. It was lovely. She happily could have ended the night there, but instead they all tumbled into the taxi together and strapped each other, just like old times. 
The night felt like it was moving in fast forward once they arrived at Electric&Blue.
They all bought a round each, lost track of each other multiple times but always ended up bumping into each other on the dance floor again. Winnie couldn’t remember dancing so much in her life, her hair sticking to her forehead with sweat. She moved to the outside area to cool down, stumbling slightly on the stairs, and remembering what Thea said about getting out there with a breathless giggle. She was certain this was what she had in mind, and made a mental note to stay away from bourbon in future. This was much more fun than crying in her room! Rhys was already outside, hair somehow immaculate and hand on lanky guy’s knee. Winnie vaguely recognised him but couldn’t place where from. 
Rhys looked up, cigarette dangling from his mouth. 
‘Winnie! Come sit with us.’ He patted the empty space next to him, and passed her a cigarette and a lighter as if he’d read her mind. She quit when she started university, but when drunk she couldn’t seem to pass them up. She nodded in thanks and lit up, inhaling slowly as she looked up at the sky, bleached a dusky orange from light pollution. 
‘How are things Rhys? I’m sorry I never stayed in touch.’
He laughed, a nice warm laugh as he stubbed out his cigarette and dropped it in an empty glass. 
‘I work in London now, managed to get a job with immigration, despite having zero experience.’ 
That’s so good! I always knew you’d do something amazing. You’re very clever.’
She patted his head affectionately and took another absent drag, before dropping the cigarette quickly as it reached it’s end, burning her fingers. The pain flashed through the murky haze of drunk, and she had a moment of clear sobriety. 
‘Shit, that hurt.’ She clasped her fingers to her other hand, and whistled through the pain. Rhys had turned to his other friend and was murmuring something to him intently. 
Winnie felt all of a sudden miserable. She was going to go back to her old life, and Harriet and Rhys would forget about her again, and she would forget about them, and she would stay in the same job, in the same place. She was fond of creature comforts and didn’t like to move around. She didn’t like busy places or cities, and hell, even Chester had been a big step for her to take and it wasn’t exactly one of the busiest places on earth. Thea though, Thea had stars in her eyes, and Winnie knew that she was going to leave her as soon as she had the opportunity to. They’d promise to stay in touch, but life would get in the way. Standing on the sticky balcony of a nightclub reminiscent of her early youth, Winnie had the startling realisation that she felt totally and utterly alone, and had done for her whole life. 
The chill wind bit into her skin and raised goosebumps along her bare arms. She didn’t want to interrupt Rhys to say goodbye, so went off to find Harriet, who was entangled with a stranger in the cellar of the club, the dingy, dark section that was generally frequented by those selling drugs, or those wanting to hookup. She didn’t look like she wanted to be disturbed either, but the girl code in Winnie told her to check she was okay anyway. 
‘Hey Harriet, I’m heading off, want to come with?’
Harriet turned to her, eyes sharp and focused. She was starting to sober up.
‘I’m okay Winnie, I’m going to stay here. Do you want my key?’
‘Nah, I’m just going to head home I think. I’ve booked a taxi.’
‘Okay babe.’ Winnie was once more enveloped in a warm, perfumed hug, and Harriet whispered in her ear; ‘I’m safe, you be safe too.’
Winnie left Harriet in the dark, the cold stone leeching whatever warmth was left in her skin, as she brushed past grinding bodies. Someone tall stepped in her path, hands in jean pockets that couldn’t be any tighter, casual. Winnie went to dodge around them.
‘Hey, girl in red!’ She stopped and turned, uncertain whether to feel afraid, or thrilled. He stepped under the low ceiling light, eyes as wide as saucers and offered her his closed fist. His hands moved from jean pocket to hoodie pocket like a nervous tic. He smiled, which was unnerving as he was also grinding his teeth as he did so, body controlled by whatever he’d put up his nose that evening. 
‘One for the road, wherever it may be.’ She reached her hand to his and he quickly pushed a small plastic baggie into it. Leaning closer, he said ‘You look like you could use it, red girl.’ He turned and disappeared into the crowd, no mention of name, payment, nothing. It appeared to be a gesture of goodwill, which Winnie decided to accept. She slipped it innocuously into her back pocket, and left the club. 
The air felt sweet on her face. She hadn’t called a taxi, and a brisk walk felt the right thing to do in order to freshen herself up. The unknown drugs burned a hole in her pocket as she walked the familiar cobbled streets of Shrewsbury, passing under the tunnel at the far end of town by the old train station, which looked gothic when bathed by the glow of the dim orange streetlamps. She walked on up the hill, heading for the town centre, and not thinking any further ahead than that. Tonight, she would not let herself think. She would only do. She had spent far too much time thinking lately, she mused to herself, and it had only gotten her stuck in a deep depressing hole of what ifs. She was better off without Matt. If he was a lying, cheating scumbag before they were married, what would he have been like after? 
People don’t change. Winnie was still the same ever-loving child she had been 18 years. She saw wonder in everything, and only acknowledged the good. Acknowledging anything else hurt, so eyes averted was the best option. 
Not anymore, she decided, as she reached the town square, only slightly out of breath. She made her mind take in what she would usually block out – the boarded up shop just past the old market hall; the smell of urine in the alley to her left; the homeless man densely packed into a sleeping bag, shifted into as small a shape as possible so as not to be disturbed by the violent drunks of the weekend. Opening herself up to these small hurts made her feel sad, like the world was suddenly less special and instead more ruined. Finally, she dialled the number for the taxi. She just wanted to go home. 
Winnie’s final thought of that evening, was that the bed in her parent’s house felt like heaven. 
 
When Winnie awoke, it was with a splitting headache and a dry mouth. That was the first thing she noticed. The second, was that, she was no longer in her bed at Windle Hill, and was instead standing in what could irrevocably be described as a dream. It appeared to be the snapshot picture of a walk she had gone on at some point in her life. She remembered it slightly. The path, thin and muddy, was bordered on both sides by spindly trees that were planted in a haphazard way that suggested nature had taken it’s course here. The branches sprouted thick foliage that leaned upwards and inwards, curving to the trees opposite like fingers reaching tentatively out to each other. The space around her was tinged in that same sickly sepia tone as the last dream she’d had, the sky peeking through the trees the same colour as when she’d looked up into the night at Electric&Blue. 
She sighed as her head thrummed and her breath puffed a milky white. There was not a single sound in the air. The leaves around her moved with a ghostly breeze, but it couldn’t be heard. The world felt still apart from her thundering heartbeat. 
‘You came back.’ Winnie jumped, skin immediately prickling with goosebumps and looked behind her. Nothing. 
When she looked back, Peter stood maybe a metre away, hands casually thrust into pockets, favouring the left side of his body. He still retained the slightly bedraggled, damp look from her previous visit. She supposed as he had apparently drowned he would remain that way. Forever wearing the skin of his killer. 
‘Jesus Christ you scared me! Can you not just sneak up on me like that?’
‘This is your dream. You should have seen me coming.’ He smiled a tiny, secret smile, like there was some inside joke she wasn’t aware of. 
‘Well I didn’t.’ She snapped. ‘And if that’s the case, can’t I just dream you away?’ Her head throbbed. 
He held up his hands in a gesture of mock innocence. ‘Ouch. It stings, Winnie. After all the times you said we were friends.’ 
‘I don’t remember, Peter. Sorry.’ She rubbed her eyes with her fist, suddenly feeling very tired. She wished for all the world that she could just sleep. This felt like an awful lot of work.
‘But you came back. Which means you’re getting somewhere. Just…don’t let what you feel swallow you up, okay? We need you here.’ His voice was starting to fade, as if he was walking further away, although he didn’t seem to be moving. Droplets of water started to drip off some strands of his hair and roll down his neck to disappear under the collar of his shirt. 
‘Wait, who’s we? I thought you were the only one here?’ 
Peter smiled that secret little smile again. 
‘Oh Winnie, you really have forgotten who you are, haven’t you? Stop trying to live the life you think others want you to live. Open your eyes and look.’
‘I don’t know what I’m looking for if you won’t show me.’ She turned slightly away, aware of her petulance, head hammering too much to care. She felt him by her side before she heard him, hand reached down towards her.
‘Let me show you, then.’ Leading her out of the grassy clearing, hand cool to the touch, and not damp with the water that clung to him like she thought it would be, she could see they were on a rise, and could see onwards and onwards. All the way to a tall craggy mountain, alone and proud. Below it were a variety of different plains, woven together like a patchwork. There didn’t seem to be a design to it, or a start or end. Just a vast desert that suddenly sprouted into a dense forest, a myriad of mossy knolls that led to a waterfall which cascaded into a large river that meandered beyond her eyeline. To the sea, maybe. It looked as though there were knobbly wooden buildings atop the waterfall, too. And to the east a field of wheat that led to absolutely nothing, just stretched on for miles and miles, the golden strands shifting like waves. 
Peter was silent for a while.
‘Do you…remember anything?’ 
Something was trying to scrabble to the forefront of her mind, but it evaded her grasp.
‘No. You said there were others? Here?’ She swept a hand over everything below her.
‘There used to be. Everything you could possibly think of. By those waterfalls were a couple of sirens. You challenged them to a singing competition once. God, you were awful.’ He laughed then, and Winnie flushed pink, irritated that she could so easily forget so much. 
‘Sorry. I didn’t mean –‘
‘It’s fine. I just want to remember.’
‘So do they. That’s why you’ve come back, I know it.’ She turned and saw nothing but the trees. 
‘Focus.’ He whispered and stepped back, leaving her without the warm familiarity of his hand in hers.
The trees murmured but all else was silent. Winnie closed her eyes and inhaled sharply. She was fully aware that they were quiet before, but her head hurt too much to think of a logical reason behind it. As she opened her eyes again, she saw them. Pressed in against the boughs of the trees so tightly they looked as if they were the weavings of a tapestry, hundreds of humanoid bodies stood, ghostly grey and devoid of emotion or personality. They all had faces and features, she was sure of it, but whenever Winnie tried to focus on just one of them, their face turned into an unrecognizable blur. As if it didn’t want to – or couldn’t be seen. These must be the others Peter was talking about; the dead who had somehow found a way to wriggle into her dream and live on. 
Peter spoke softly, as if he knew exactly what she was seeing. ‘You’ll be safe as long as you’re with me. They can’t harm you when I’m here. They need power, Winnie, to be alive again. And only you can give it to them.’
‘I’m not sure I understand how…’ She reached out to see if she could touch their milky skin. She woke up.
 


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