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The counselor was exactly as she expected him to be; even though she came here every week to talk about what happened while she was in a coma. The man didn’t look at all sympathetic to her; in fact he looked as if he was only passing the time until they would call him to go home. His stern look and beady eyes didn’t help much either. Then there was the fact that each time she came he scoffed at the monsters that haunted her dreams. Of course she still had nightmares of what happened but they weren’t dangerous per se.

There were toys sitting in the middle of the floor most likely left behind by this man’s last ‘patient’. A couple of soft brown and worn teddy bears along with Barbie dolls and a soccer ball that sat in the far corner. She immediately went to a teddy bear with a worn out patch of fur on its back and pretended to be preoccupied with it as the old man eyed her. Katie couldn’t help but think that there was something in his eyes that made him a hawk, scouring for his prey. Well he’d found one.

The old man’s bald head jerked up towards Mrs. Nightshade and he asked,”Does she still have nightmares of… Monsters?” The pause only made it all the more obvious that he’s trying to refrain from telling them both that monsters don’t exist. Maybe he would even go so far as to try to prove them wrong.

Mrs. Nightshade kept her cool in front of him at least,”Yes she does but…” She put an arm around Katie with a pained face,”The hallucinations are getting worse and she swears that they come back each time to kill her.” Katie didn’t look up but she shot a dejected look in her general direction. Her own mother betrayed her to the guidance counselor who she didn’t even like!

It wasn’t her fault if the monsters were real. The counselor had a sour look on his face as though he’d swallowed a lemon…Lots of lemons! The man cleared his throat and uncrossed his arms so she looked at the name tag on his plain red shirt, Thomas.

The man named Thomas peered at her again with that same predatory look,"She said you still see monsters?"

Katie sighed, already fearing the implications of this day,"I do and I swear they're real!" Her heart dropped as she glimpsed the look of Mr. Thomas's face. His lips twitched faintly as though her were holding back a smile. She was certain that he wanted to laugh at her.

"Now Katie... Monsters don't exist. Don't you think man kind would've figured this out by now?" The tone of his voice suggested he was talking to a two year old or just a very young child which in this case he kinda was.

"That's because these monsters exist in a different world!" It sounded stupid to say but as Katie spoke the words she knew them to be true. They certainly didn't exist in this world but they pulled children into their world to kill them. Katie was still unsure why they wanted kids specifically.

The man tsked and wrote something down in his note pad she just noticed he was holding. As the pencil scritch scratched across the note pad Katie found that it wouldn't surprise her if he was writing down something negative about her,"Now let's see... When did these hallucinations start?"

Katie rolled her eyes. That was the question he asked every single time she came here. She suspected he asked her that to see if her answer would change,"It started when I woke up from my coma. When I woke up..." Her eyes grew hazy. This was the part of the visit she hated most, when she had to tell them both who she saw,"A woman there with a cruel set of eyes. Her eyes were hideous and they were like dead fishes. She... Looked at me with those eyes and said,'You'll come back. Because something special will be taken away from you and then what'll you do?' My mom came in and saw I was awake and the second I looked away from the woman she was gone."

As Mr. Thomas harrumphed her hands tightened around the teddy bear she grasped in her fists. This man didn't care for her. He and her mom didn't believe that that world really existed and the only one who'd believed her was Luka. Now it was possible that Luka was having the same dreams she'd had and who knew how long Luka had been having those dreams. It was all too possible that she would fall into a coma.

The counselor sighed and flipped his note pad closed. He gave Mrs. Nightshade a look that seemed to communicate more than their situation,"I can't promise that I'll be able to help her get over these nightmares. Only she can truly help herself get over it."

Mrs. Nightshade's hands were crossed in her lap and Katie noticed they'd tightened slightly at his words,"I understand. Is our session over then?" We'd gone to see Mr. Thomas so many times over the past year that Katie's mom kinda knew by now what to expect.

Right on cue Mr. Thomas gave her a nod and stood, gangly legs and all,"Yes. Our session is over, the next one will be..." Mr. Thomas flipped open his note pad once again and peered at the page, as though he was really looking at something of importance. Done with his note pad he flipped it close and took his sweet time just to say,"Next week on Thursday. If she can make it."

Now Katie just tuned them out. They were merely setting up another day where she would come to the same counselor and be forced to talk about that dream world, be forced to talk about waking up on that fateful day, and worse yet she'd have to talk about the monsters even knowing that Mr. Thomas didn't believe her.

As they left Katie passed by Luka and she'd even called out to the girl but Luka didn't make as if she'd heard.

~

"Katie? Can you turn the TV on for me?" Mrs. Nightshade was in the kitchen cooking the both of them supper. When her mom cooked she occasionally asked Katie to turn on the TV so she could see what was on the news.

Little did she know though that she would regret that moment for the rest of her life. Because as she turned on the TV there was a news heading saying,'BREAKING NEWS: Another child caught in the throes of a coma, Nightmare Syndrome or not?'

Katie stood there staring at the TV clutching the remote tightly between both of her tiny hands. Already she had a horrible feeling. The picture of the child would appear in just a few seconds and when it did... That's when she dropped the remote.

Mrs. Nightshade must have heard the noise because she glanced into the other room at Katie and asked,"Hun? What's wrong?" Mrs. Nightshade hadn't yet looked up at the TV but she quickly rushed into the other room after Katie's next remark.

"Momma... Its L-Luka." There was her picture up on the cold screen. There must have been someone in the room with her because it was being filmed live. Luka was in a hospital room and she could see that her own parents were there with her. Luka's skin was pale but she didn't move at all and it didn't seem like she was in any pain but Katie couldn't be too sure.

It was only then that she tuned into the words someone was speaking, maybe the cameraman? There didn't seem to be anyone else there,"...Another one claimed by the Nightmare Syndrome and still no one really knows what's going on in these children's heads. Sometime ago there was one child that had escaped this comatose state unscathed but still she had yet to disclose any information on that subject." The camera panned around towards the door way and it was just then that the real talker showed up.

What he said was very surprising though,"Will she go back to the dream world and attempt to save this girl and all other children? Or will she chicken out like so long ago just to save her pathetic life?" Katie jerked back only to realize that the voice was female; not male and the voice seemed to be directed at her,"You hear that Katie dear? I know where you live, where you sleep, you can't hide from me."

As Katie stared at the TV screen the man's voice reverted back to his own and he continued talking about the Nightmare Syndrome and about Luka's comatose state. She zoned out though, after all she knew the rest already. Out of curiosity she glanced to her mom to see if Mrs. Nightshade had witnessed any of which had happened but her mother's expression remained neutral.

Softly she mumbled,"Another hallucination then?" Her hands clenched into fists by her sides,"No... These are no mere hallucinations." It was clear now. She might have escaped the dream world but that world was not through with her. The monsters stuck with her; tormenting her into coming back and ending it all. But of course they knew she wouldn't come back unless she absolutely had to so they took something special from her. They didn't want Luka specifically. They wanted her.

"Oh my...Poor Luka." She mistook the look on Katie's face for sadness over her friend because she said,"Don't worry Katie. We'll go tomorrow." As Mrs. Nightshade went back to the kitchen to finish their supper Katie looked towards her bedroom.

"I'm sorry Momma but... I have something else in mind."

Supper was silent as usual. It wasn't one of those awkward silences they usually had. But this kind of silence was companionable, one of the rare instances when they could eat as parent and daughter and for a brief moment Katie felt happy. Then she remembered what she was going to do after supper and her mood turned somber.

Katie tried to have fun and chat with her mom like she used to but the seriousness of what had just happened sucked the will to have fun right out of her. She was eventually done with her supper and went to the sink to throw her plate in.

"Good night Katie!" She looked towards her mom for what could or could not be her last time. Her mother had a concerned look on her face as though she'd realized that something was wrong. Did she see the oddity of her trying to make fun?

Katie gave her a watery smile,"Good night Momma." Before Mrs. Nightshade could notice her tears Katie ran off to her room. It was time to go to a place she thought she was done with.

She dressed in her purple pajamas with sheep all over them but paused for a second to look around her room. She could almost hear that pesky little voice inside of her say,'Look now at the place you've come to know. This may be the last time you ever look upon it...' Katie heeded that voice and cast one last glance around the room.

This was the room she had come to know and she was leaving this world for a nightmare world that wanted her body and soul. Maybe not so literally but in this situation that phrase seemed to explain everything quite well.

Katie flicked the switch off and climbed into bed. With the covers pulled up to her chin she huddled under the covers and waited for sleep to take her, and for her perhaps imminent death.

~

The breeze caught her unawares at first. Then sudden movement creeping along her arm. Katie swatted at the movement but whatever was there was persistent and she swatted at it again. But as she did so she felt a sharp needle like object hit her finger.

Coming to with a jerk her eyes scanned the place blearily. Her eyes blinked back and forth over this landscape until they cleared. She knew it would happen but when she realized where she was in particular her mouth fell open. Katie scrambled up and looked around in newly found shock.

She was at the entrance to a really dark forest. There was daylight above but the sky was a blood red and as she looked closer the daylight could not puncture the dead weight of the darkness that encased the forest. Behind here there was a grassy plain that looked much more welcoming than the forest except for one thing: There were monsters hiding in the tall grass that vaguely resembled lizards except they were bigger, had claws made for ripping and tearing, and its teeth were longer and much more sharper looking. also it had a tail that she knew could easily wrap around a person to hold them in one place.

She shuddered and turned around to stare at the forest; she was to risk the grassy plain and hope those beasts didn't notice her or to risk the darkness of the forest and hope she could sneak past the monsters of that place. What would she choose?


Submitted: April 01, 2015

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