Chapter 4

All the gods that Shannon could pray to could not or would not help her situation at the moment. Her daughter was laying in the hospital bed staring at the ceiling like it were going to come to life and do something totally unexpected at any moment. She had been like this for nearly three hours. Detective Saunders had come and gone before she even arrived. All the nurses would tell her was that Dawn had suffered sever trauma to her mental state in a very close time frame and if she kept at this rate, Dawn would sustain mental damage that most therapists didn't even want to try and repair. Shannon could no blame her daughter for any of this; in less than a month, the girl had seen two corpses, both of them turning to mush within hours of being found, and she had been there during both events to witness it.

A sigh escaped her lips as she sat and watched her daughter lay in her near-vegetative state. There was nothing she could do here except watch and wait. The doctors had said that they'd allow her the chance to go home and get some rest, calling if her condition changed but Shannon couldn't do that. Her daughter was the most important thing to her at the moment and nothing would keep her away.

"Mrs. Prichard?" She turned and looked at the man standing in the doorway. She was only vaguely acquainted with the detective, having seen him and met him when Dawn was slamming doors into his face for amusement and making scenes of all sorts. But she did have to admit, he was attractive; she wondered if Dawn had noticed. He was about 5'11" and had ebony hair that was not combed in a way that would seem professional. His skin was a dark olive tone that made him seem sort of mysterious and the few strands of hair that fell into his face shadowed his chocolate eyes. All in all, if she hadn't known any better, she would have believed him to be a movie star.

"Yes Detective Saunders?" She stood from her place by her daughter's bed and moved over to him. She felt a flutter of hope fill her. "Have you any information?"

"Yes. Unfortunately, that information is not the kind that you want to hear."

"Why not?" she asked in confusion.

"Mrs. Prichard. The police station and myself are considering Dawn as a suspect in these murders."

Shannon Prichard stood stock-still and stared at him with wide eyes. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, she regained her composure.

"Just where the HELL do you get the audacity to accuse my daughter of murder you low-life, filthy bastard?!" She yelled in rage.

"Mrs. Prichard-"

"Fuck you! My daughter is innocent! Just look at what seeing all this has done to her! Just-Get out! Get the fuck out before I really lose my temper!"

Lucien's eyes widened as he backed away and Shannon slammed the door shut inches from where his face had been. He had not expected such a reaction to this news. He actually thought that it would have been expected. Dawn did know both victims and, from interviews he'd given to students and neighbors, had had fights with both just a short time before their deaths. He pinched the bridge of his nose as he walked away, deep in thought. The girl had both opportunity and motive but something didn't add up and he sure as hell wasn't going to take her into custody when he didn't need to. He had no warrant and he had no real reason to lock her up. She'd given nothing away to indicate her as the killer. He would just have to wait until he could get something out of her or, as much as he hated to say it, until the next body turned up.

Shannon sighed and turned back to her daughter. She gave a weary smile as she noticed she'd fallen asleep. She hoped that the dreams were good ones instead of the nightmares that plagued her so recently.

* * * *

Her eyes searched the barren landscape desperately, searching for the fog that seemed to be the telltale sign the demon of her nightmares was coming but nothing came. It relieved her somewhat but it still troubled her. Why didn't it come and terrorize her as it had since Jessica's death? Every time she saw it, it seemed to take no notice of her until she was just about to wake up; it seemed to be hunting something or someone else. Whatever this creature was, she instinctively knew that she didn't want it to notice her too much.

"Who are you?" The question took her by surprise and she spun around quickly to see the one who had asked it. Involuntarily, she took a step back; it was the creature! It seemed to realize that it had scared her and smiled. Except it wasn't filled with those terrible teeth she had grown accustomed to seeing when it hunted. They were normal. Still, Dawn didn't let this throw her. For all she knew, this could be another one of its tricks and she refused to fall for it.

"You have no reason to fear me; the beast has gone for now. It comes only when it gets hungry." The first part of the statement piqued her interest first.

"A beast? What kind of beast?"

A dark look crossed the girl's face, which was not pale and sickly looking but vibrant, as was her hair. Her clothes consisted of the complete opposite of what she had seen before; all white and perfect fits. She wore a renaissance-type dress that hugged her body in all the right places and was simply flowing material in others. A crushed velvet cloak hung about her shoulders. Dawn raised an eyebrow at the sight. The girl noticed the look she was receiving and laughed softly.
"I know I don't look normal. I just always liked the renaissance era and the way they dressed; it's like being royalty without all the responsibility forced on your shoulders, you know?"
"I suppose it was like that."
"That aside. You never answered my question."
"Who am I? I think the more appropriate questions are who are you and what is this place?"
The girl sighed and a chair appeared behind her as she moved to sit.
"I am Sonya Martinez and this place is called the 'dream plain' in simple terms. The technical terms can get a bit fussy to explain, so I won't explain them at all."
"Why am I here? Why-" Sonya raised her hand and silenced Dawn before she could say any more.
"All I know about your being here is that you're one of the chosen. The beast has selected you as a meal but it can't seem to find you as easily as it finds the others. As for why I am here, for I know you were going to ask that. I am here as a prisoner."
"A prisoner?" Before she could answer, the mist began to rise around them and Sonya stood up from her place, the chair vanishing behind her. "The beast has found you! You need to go now! Wake up!" The panic was apparent in her voice and face and Dawn felt fear rise up inside her. She turned around desperately, looking for the creature or some avenue of escape. She froze when she heard the growl and turned slowly to see Sonya on the floor, looking as if she were sleeping, and the creature slowly advancing on her. Dawn screamed and ran in terror, knowing deep inside that there was nothing she could do for the kind girl that lay on the floor behind her. As she tried to put distance between her and the creature, she heard its howls and growls closing in and with nothing to use as a weapon, she could not defend herself.

She came to a stop, gasping for breath and turned around to face it. It jumped at her and-

* * * *

"DAWN!" She opened her eyes and screamed. She tried to thrash around in attempt to ward off some unseen assailant but strong hands and arms were holding down her body. A light was shined in her eyes and she vaguely heard someone calling information of some kind over her screaming. As she struggled, she discerned her mother's voice calling her name through all the people who were being noisy.

"Dawn! Calm down! Calm down! It's me! Dawn, can you hear me? Do you understand? It's me! Your mother!" After what seemed to be an eternity, Shannon's face came into view; the appearance of her calmed her down quite a bit but it did nothing for her nerves. Shannon's face was pale and her hair was unkempt and her make-up was a mess. After a moment, Shannon's face left her view to be replaced by that of a doctor's. He tried to tell her his name but she wasn't listening. She wanted her mother and no one else. As she continued struggling, for a moment, Dawn could have sworn she saw the creature standing in the room. It looked at her maliciously, as if it knew her every thought and fear and moved towards her mother with the horrible grin she had come to associate her terror with.

In a flash, the vision was gone; now Dawn knew, without a doubt, which the creature's next victim would be and she was determined to save her before it happened.